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A HIDDEN HISTORY:
African Women and the
British Health Service

1930–2000

Midah Mamiale

Midah was a trained nurse in South Africa during the apartheid era. When the travel ban was lifted, she decided to move to the United Kingdom for work. In 1999, she began working at Charing Cross Hospital. In her interview, Midah discusses her relationship with becoming a nurse and the role models she’d grown up seeing, as well as racism in the workplace, and comparisons to the African health services.

RECRUITMENT

"I came here working for the Hammersmith NHS Trust and then everybody was housed in Charing Cross Nurses Home, so that’s where I lived."


"There is a nursing magazine every month in South Africa, The Nursing Journal, so they were advertising the jobs from here. There was a recruitment agency from Ireland."


MOTIVATION FOR PURSUING NURSING

"At home in South Africa, the nurses have to wear their uniform. The uniforms have to be really clean and tidy and everything. So when I saw a nurse walking, I said 'I want to be just like them one day'."


RACISM

"One day I was really, really crying thinking, 'I’m done with this place'. Because if my colleague, who’s not African, comes and does something wrong, [it's okay]. I come and do it a little wrong, then I’ll be persecuted."


"In the UK, the discrimination is too much. It’s just that it’s not like in South Africa because here you can’t speak about it, but it’s there. They claim to say that this is a free country, but there is a lot of discrimination."


CAREER

"I’ve learned a lot of things that I didn’t do before at home. So I’m really, really grateful for that because it’s like I’m an expert in orthopaedic theatre."


COMMUNITY

"The people who were recruiting us, every time when a new group comes, they will give us their names. To say that these people here to welcome you or to make you feel at home. We found nurses that came before us, then we formed a group of supporting each other. Because we were staying here in the same place. So we were like a group of people from South Africa."


MIGRATION 

"I just wanted to come and see how nursing is being done in the other world. And how is overseas? Because I've never been anywhere. That was my chance to go. Even I was coming free of charge because they bought me a ticket. They gave me the accommodation. They gave me the bank cards with money in them. So why not take that opportunity? At least I can appreciate my country more now because of what I've seen here, what I've learnt here. I really appreciate South Africa now more than before."


"The patients are all the same. Whether it's here or is back home, even our own people. There are those who are nasty. Even here, our own people are nasty. So it's just all everywhere. You just have to be to know how to deal with your patients. That's it.

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