Priscilla Dike arrived from Nigeria in 1985 to settle in London. It was here, at Rodin College of Healthcare, that she completed her general nursing training and moved into midwifery. In her interview, Priscilla discusses her career in healthcare, medical activism in relation to Female Genital Mutilation, and racism.
Early life and Childhood
I was born in Nigeria, Eastern Nigeria, during the Nigerian Biafran war.
I left Nigeria with my husband and a three month old son around, um, September, 199-, sorry, 1985 and settled in Britain in London, particularly since.
I trained as a general registered general nurse at Rodin college of health care, which was then in Whips Cross hospital. And, um, I qualified on the 17th of May, 1991. And commence midwifery training because my interest was mainly midwifery. I commenced midwifery training and at the Princess, Alexandra Nursing and Midwifery school, which is at Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, uh, on the 19th of May of the same year that I qualified as a nurse.
So two days after qualifying as a nurse, I started midwifery training. Yes. I suppose my interest because as I completed the first year and a half of nursing given some of the experiences. I'm a regulator. I lost interest in nursing. My nursing wasn't really my original interest.
It was midwifery, but at that time, Amelia. This is dating before your years is there were only about two direct entry, midwifery training, universities or colleges then in the United Kingdom. So I went into nursing and as I say, halfway through nursing, and I thought, no, this is not the profession I want to be. And so I applied, got a place for midwifery training, completed my masters. And as I said, on the 17th of May I thought, no, I'm not staying in nursing profession and started midwifery training. Yeah.
My interest in FGM came as a result of me seeing myself as a feminist. A humanitarian and being a health practitioner as well and a woman, when I heard about it, it distressed me quite a great deal to read about the plight of women, particularly yeah. 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. That publications as my little contribution to end in the inhuman practices of, FGM really, it was a personal interest that turned into a broader interest of wanting to write about it. So, after publishing numerous number of articles on the subject matter, I received an invitation first from the department of health to write. One article for, [illegible] that article and they consider that it could be turned into two articles and the department of health paid, they sponsor the publication. So then I ended up writing two
guidelines as to the measures that have sisters can take to come back. In fact really, because some countries do tend to perform that on, on, on infants and so measures they can take then while I’m continuing to advocate for stopping it amongst women and looking after women who have already gone through it, I wanted to cover the attack on that.
I was glad to write that article or those articles because it turned out to be true. From then on, I got an invitation from her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to join their expert panel. So that opened more of a venue for public speech. presentations, been invited since then by numerous or the universities to come and speak to their students about FGM.
I haven’t taken too much time to explain them to him that he didn’t discourage me from when in the profession. But on the night when I had to pack two bodies, I came home and said, I'm not going to be in this profession anymore. I'm not going to sleep tonight. I'm going to look for universities that do a post qualification midwifery, and I'm starting this application today before I go back to a night shift tonight. And that's what I did. So it is those kinds of things, resilience and ardent determination to forge ahead. Secondly, the opportunities of serving really as a mentor, given the experiences I've had, I like to utilize those experiences to encourage people. Uh, who wish to, you know, walk away from the profession to say, no, don't do that on the account of another person, unless it is your pure determination, uh, to want to look for another profession, um, being a Senior midwifery lecturer, um, and my current role as a consultant midwife, which has enabled me to serve, you know, which itself and work closely with women and families."
That I experienced aside from being amongst, um, majority of Irish students, uh, one location I was in during my nurse training, I went on a break with the
Irish students were just sitting in a park on the grass in the sun because I started in May. So
soon was June, July, August, and the summer months. Uh, one of them then who's name,
uh, it's actually engraved in my mind. I said while we're having lunch. "Oh, there are too many monkeys in London, which you don't see an Ireland". That's how she said it. She said there are too many monkeys in London, which you don't see an Ireland uh, not having seen monkeys in London, myself and somewhat ignorant of her racism or her racist assertions. I asked her where at the monkeys and actually I asked ignorantly, where are the monkeys? Because I haven't seen any monkey in Britain. Myself at that point, even I hadn't even been to the zoo at that point. So this started all laughing, hilariously, really the 26 of them, uh, from then on, I thought this doesn't seem right. I want another person to explain it, explain to me what they meant. And then I decided to isolate myself from the entire gatherings, their social gatherings. And force the head with my studies and you can understand why then after a year and a half, I thought, no, I'm not staying in this profession.
Then as a student midwife. I started a British woman who was from Auckland because we did case loading at that point. She booked for maternity care at the Royal London hospital, then through her entire pregnancy. She was one of my case loads, uh, as part of the continuity of care. Then in the program. Uh, you know, and she also had a main midwife who was also of Africa origin. So on a few instances, during clinical consultation, she would make jokes like ha ha ha. I guess at the end of this pregnancy I'll give birth to a monkey. And she'll laugh ha ha ha. Yes, I remember this thing clearly, I guess at the end of the pregnancy, she kept saying, I ended up having a monkey, I gave birth to a monkey.
[00:10:49] Then on day two, after she gave birth I recall going to visit her to meet her new
baby, I was quite excited for her because I’d seen her truly continue over her pregnancy.
[00:11:00] And this was on the postnatal ward. So I was horrified when, you know, arriving
beside her greeting her in excitement thats shes had the baby. She actually attested to say
that she farted it so loudly and went on to say now, that this babies out, I guess I have no
need to be surrounded by monkeys.
Yes. On numerous occasions. I have even currently as a consultant midwife, from all women from Black Asian minority ethnic groups. Speak to me about neglect and 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, the lack of
respect, in the manner of which they are communicated with. Um, often women tell me
that midwives or healthcare professionals use childlike undertones in speaking to them
and things like that.
There there's lack of respect in the manner of communication to them. Moreover when I did my postgraduate research, I interviewed the population of Nigerian women as, as my cohort for the study and Nigerian midwives actually, and they gave numerous examples. Uh, during the interview, both the midwives and the women have disparity in the care, that Nigerian women receive from some midwifery staff, particularly because my interview was midwives and women. Although many of them actually express gratitude towards the care they received. A number of them did point to the disparity they had in the care they received.
Because there was overt discrimination where a whole team with the midwifery director of a particular trust that I worked in were so overtly racist to me, to the point where I was bullied into wanting to leave the job. [Illegible] my tenacity-but this situation was so bad, there was no way any other human being would have survived.
[00:28:09] As long as I did, it started from more or less the first day of work. I was in that job
for a year and three months, but he got to a point where I first secured myself another job
and then decided that I would go into. Not to ignore the bullying, the harassment, the overt
racism that I was experiencing and I won’t go into too much detail because but the care
quality commission got involved with this Trust because of this level of discrimination.
[00:28:46] The Trust itself even had to employ a law firm to investigate, you know, the
racism and that was existing within the maternity team. When they realize that the case against them was very strong and that if it were to become public knowledge, it would drag the entire trust through the mud. They decided to settle before I could take it further. Yeah. So. I accepted the settlement. I moved to a job that I had already obtained anyway then. And that's the job that I'm doing.
Well, I didn't feel that a lot of Africans in Britain are treated as second class citizens really at times. Through my entire three decades or more of living in Britain and being a British you being a seen as a second class citizen, suddenly again, some of us, you know, Black, Asian minority ethnic group do return to the colonized mentality, remain subservient even in the midst of unjustifiable operation and repression.
[00:32:08] Yeah, no know about institutional racism, which is a massive stumbling block
against the emancipation of Africans in Britain and not just Africans other Black and
minority ethnic minority groups. There's also the issue of, um, well, what, I can only address
[00:32:31] (unclear) - Mean where there's a mentality amongst (unclear) that despite the
abundance of knowledge, skills and experience that they possess they lack unity of purpose,
our people lack unity of purpose. And this is why, um, um, the majority is the split us and,
you know, divide us because we lack unity of purpose.
Ah, important. You embraced my identity as an African in Britain and to maintain a solid and grounded inheritance of who I am really. Um, for that reason, it matters to me to be known as an African. I celebrate African culture in ensuring that my children and now grand children know about the culture. And our traditions also my choice of food, clothing, my way of cooking. Uh, it's in the culture at the time. For me, even my attire do express who I am from, from that regard. Um, and moreover, I'm conscious of retaining my accent. I've tried not to lose it entirely my Nigerian accent. Because that is part of the identity that makes me me. Uh, so these are my ways of embracing the culture this day. You would know now and again, I do attend the Nottingham Notting Hill carnival as part of celebrating African or black culture, much just, I do not subscribe to some of the activities, our spirit of the, uh, uh, kind of, carnival. I do go for it sometimes.
Advice for young people
Reevaluate this pluralistic nature of Britain that has spoken about the reconsidered, the notion of freedom of choice.
[00:42:04] And in that one, choosing make wise choices and utilize their freedom for
tangible aspiration that will benefit them as human beings. Um, choice and freedom was not
meant to be for self destruction, which if it in ways of life, which I say often amongst our
youths. But to utilize those opportunities for tenacious, zealous and conscientious, just,
endeavours is that would, and, um, befitting in life really in Britain.
[00:42:39] I also had to say to them to embrace their identity, and embrace their identity,
listen to their parents, particularly their parents counsel as to how to address some of those
negative issues. I’ve highlighted through this interview, you know, listening to respect their parents as well as have reverence for the almighty God, because he said, this is my core foundation.
[00:43:04] My effect I said to people is the greatest gift my parents gave me because that
has sustained me through all ills that have been through in Britain.