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  • Debrah Igbinedion

Interviewing Cecilia Anim at the Inclusion Café

This month I met Dr Cecilia Anim, the first Black president of the Royal College of Nursing, at the Inclusion Café. The Inclusion Café was formed to promote community, dialogue, and understanding amongst workers across the NHS. Kaitlene, who played a leading role in organising the first Inclusion Café book club, interviewed Cecilia alongside me. As well as asking questions about her journey in healthcare, our discussion with Cecilia touched on the history of migration, using Moving Beyond Borders: A History of Black Canadian and Caribbean Women in the Diaspora as a key reference.

YHP members alongside Cecilia Anim (middle)

Cecilia Anim is a tenacious, passionate, and determined individual who preserved against all odds of racism in nursing. She completed her schooling in Ghana and trained as a midwife at Anokye Hospital in 1968. Cecilia moved to Britain in 1972 and did a general nursing course at Hull Royal Infirmary. Initially working as a paediatrics nurse, she later completed her clinical specialist training in advanced family planning at the Bloomsbury School of Nursing. In 1979, Cecilia began working at the Margaret Pyke Centre in London, named after the pioneering women's reproductive rights activist. Alongside her Royal College of Nursing presidency, Cecilia continues to work as a clinical nurse specialist in sexual reproductive health.

After being a member of the Royal College of Nursing for over 30 years, Cecilia was elected Deputy President in 2010. She worked in this role for four years until being elected President in 2015 – making her the first Black person to occupy this role in the history the Royal School of Nursing. In 2017, she was re–elected as President and is currently serving her second term. Her story has inspired me stay fixated on the end goal of a journey and to never give up under any circumstances. In her own experience, when one door closed, a thousand doors opened because of the passion and love she has for her career. For her, being part of the RCN helped remove the isolation she might have otherwise felt as an African woman in the British health service.

The best moment has been when I qualified as a nurse, and though I was the only Black student in my cohort, I felt very special. The highlight of my nursing is becoming an RCN steward and all that that brings to your life. The challenges, the excitement, and trying to support your co-workers. I think in doing that you become part of a team. You were no more 'that little Black nurse'. – Cecilia Anim

Throughout the conversation, she emphasised on the importance of celebrating African identities in the UK, in remembrance of our roots and rich cultures. Several members of YHP had interviewed Cecilia back in 2019, and this second opportunity for us to listen to her story in a different setting underlined the importance of listening to and celebrating African women’s voices, and ensuring their stories are shared with younger generations.

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