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A HIDDEN HISTORY:
African Women and the
British Health Service

1930–2000

Priscilla Dike

Priscilla Dike settled in London in 1985, arriving from Nigeria . She completed general nursing training then moved into midwifery. In her interview, Priscilla discusses her career, racism in healthcare, and her activism against Female genital mutilation (FGM). She is a Consultant Midwife, university lecturer, and published medical researcher. 

MIDWIFERY

“Serving as a university lecturer for over sixteen years, sharing skills and knowledge with the next generation of midwives, and helping them establish their careers is an honour and a privilege that I cherish. And the miracle of birth for me is the most rewarding of all my experiences in the profession. Being present in people’s life experience of bringing another human into the world, supporting them through that, and giving them the best of care is an experience that I will forever cherish."


ACTIVISM

"My interest in FGM came as a result of me seeing myself as a feminist, a humanitarian, being a health practitioner, and a woman. When I heard about it, it distressed me quite a great deal to read about the plight of women in connection to the number of complications that they are exposed to because of having gone through FGM. I definitely took a personal interest to read broadly on the subject matter and to put out publications. Those publications [were] my little contribution to end in the inhuman practices of FGM."


RACISM

"Once during my nursing training, I went on a break with the Irish students, [who] were sitting in a park in the sun. One of them, whose name is actually engraved in my mind, while we're having lunch said "Oh, there are too many monkeys in London, which you don't see in Ireland". That's how she said it. Not having seen monkeys in London myself and somewhat ignorant of her racism, I asked her where the monkeys were. So they all started laughing, the twenty-six of them. I thought 'This doesn't seem right'. I wanted another person to explain to me what they meant. Then I decided to isolate myself from entire gatherings, their social gatherings, and force my head [in] my studies. You can understand why then after a year and a half I thought 'No, I'm not staying in this profession'.


BME PATIENTS' EXPERIENCES

"Even currently as a Consultant midwife, all women from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic groups speak to me about neglect and [negative] aspects of the care they receive. They also recount the demeaning reports or responses they get from healthcare professionals when they have genuine queries about their care, and the lack of respect in [how] they are communicated with. Often women tell me that midwives or healthcare professionals use childlike undertones in speaking to them."


IDENTITY

"I embraced my identity as an African in Britain to maintain a solid and grounded inheritance of who I am. For that reason, it matters to me to be known as an African. I celebrate African culture in ensuring that my children and now grandchildren know about the culture, our traditions, food, clothing, and my way of cooking. For me, even my attire expresses who I am. Moreover, I'm conscious of retaining my accent. I've tried not to lose my Nigerian accent entirely. Because that is part of the identity that makes me, me."

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