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African Women and the
British Health Service


Cecilia Anim

Cecelia Anim is a nurse specialising in sexual and reproductive health and was president of the Royal College of Nursing from 2015 to 2018. She came to the UK in 1971 from Ghana to continue her nursing career. She initially trained in Hull before moving to London. In her interview, Cecelia talks about her experiences living and working in Hull and London, and the work she does in her local community. She also discusses her annual trips to Ghana, where she visits family and works with the Ghanaian health services and organisations.


"When I was 2 years old, we lived near to a maternity home in Ghana, and my mother used to say “I want to be a midwife like Auntie Sophie”. So I wanted to be a midwife. Caring has [always] been part of what I wanted to do. And as one of 8 children, and the eldest of the girls, you were always caring for the little ones." 


"I came to the UK in 1971, and my sole purpose was to continue my nursing career."

"I started in Ghana with my midwifery training – worked there before I came here. Coming into the NHS was just a continuation of what I wanted to do, to care, to make a difference, and to support. And where I have to fight for the right cause, I will."


"In our cohort, I was the only black nurse among the whole lot. But that didn’t bother me to begin with, because I realised that the love and affection towards me was enough to blot out any challenges because of my colour."


"As a midwife, it’s all about women isn’t it? It’s about women coming to have babies, it’s about looking after women during pregnancy. Everything about a woman is where my interest is, because I think sometimes we do get a raw deal. Therefore when I qualified as a nurse in Hull, I did a bit of paediatrics, I did a bit of orthopaedics, and I thought “No, no, no, women’s health is where I want to be.” So that’s where I have been all this time. It’s to support the woman, to empower the woman, to be able to actually get the right care at the right time, and if it’s not happening, make it happen."


"When I go to Ghana, I always want to interact with the health professions like the Ghana Registered Nursing Association, especially [after] I became president of the Royal College of Nursing. I wanted to share the experience. I was involved with a lot of stakeholders seeing what can I do to help, what can I do to influence nurse education, and what can I do to influence practice. When I became deputy president, we invited the Ghana Registered Nurses Association, and a few of them came in here to the RCN to see what they can take back to work. Because obviously you cannot go in to change their practice, but you can share your good practice with them so that they can use it to fit the local purpose."


"Because I’ve got a child with learning difficulty, I actually encourage people with learning difficulties, [or] who have got children with learning difficulty. I talk to them about where they can get help, and supporting mothers to fight for what is right for their children."


"I love marching. In the trade union part of my life, I really loved marching and saving the NHS and doing all sorts of things, you know, and I’ll show you a few pictures that I was at Westminster Green delivering a speech to about 3000 people."

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