A woman with a heart of Gold, Her Excellency, First lady of Kebbi State, Zainab Shinkafi Bagudu

Growing up

I was born many years ago in Lagos. My best educational years were in Queens College, Lagos. I enjoyed my education, I made wonderful lifelong friends and it prepared me for life generally. I then proceeded to the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. Upon completion of my MBBS, I proceeded to the UK where I was able to specialise in Paediatrics. My parents were extremely supportive and remained my role models in life. My husband is the Governor of Kebbi State and I now have a new role as mother to about 3.4 Million indigenes of Kebbi.

Paediatrics as an ‘alternative’, now my passion

Medicine for me was a welcome ‘accident’. I had straight As for my O levels. My uncle who is now late marched me to the vice chancellor who decided there were too few female doctors from northern Nigeria and crossed off the Bsc Economics I had intended to study (which I had chosen because another uncle was an economist and I wanted to be like him). I smiled and that was it. I registered and joined the pre-med classes. I thought more about Paediatrics and made a more informed decision.

When and why was Medicaid Radio-Diagnostic Centre Abuja commissioned and what has been the success story?

After returning from the UK, I joined the Garki Hospital which was just starting under a new Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement. So I was their pioneer Paediatrician. It was quite interesting and challenging to begin with. There was a lot of work to do. Once we started to settle, it became obvious I had to do a bit more. I started noticing gaps in our practices, and adequate and reliable diagnostic support was greatly needed. It was quite frustrating to get reports that didn’t tally with clinical judgment constantly. Sometimes, I even get results totally opposite to my clinical judgment. The labs at the time were contracted out; though this has now been improved and the labs are more modern and reliable. I decided to effect changes in my own way. I carried out a small survey with a colleague and the result was Medicaid Radio-Diagnostic Centre. So it was as a response to the gap at the time in Abuja as well as to serve as a support centre for the many brilliant doctors in the town.

Tell us about the Medicaid Cancer Foundation (MCF)

We started Medicaid as a Diagnostic Centre. The Diagnostic Centre did a lot of tests for women’s health, such as mammograms and pap smears. The data was very helpful and the need, as we soon discovered, was also great. It became obvious that I had to have structure and support to manage this need. Thus the Medicaid Cancer Foundation (MCF) was initiated as a response to that. The Foundation is about 6 years old now and basically we are one of the strongest, if not the strongest cancer foundations in Northern Nigeria.

Annual Cancer Event organized by MCF

October is a month set aside to commemorate breast cancer every year. However, we at MCF have decided to use the month to create awareness on most forms of cancers in Nigeria. The concert is just one of the activities we do to mark the event. We organize campaigns and screening programs to sensitize people on early detection of Cancer. This has been very successful; as many people have benefited from these activities through early detection, diet interventions, physical fitness and healthy lifestyles. It is in line with this that we have successfully organised several cancer screening and awareness outreach events in the past and more are underway in the future. The basic reason of our success is entirely on the individuals and organisations on whose kindness and support we have leaned on to achieve so much.

What makes Kebbi State tick?

Recently, Kebbi State has constantly been in the news for good. That is because of the focus of the present administration to better the lives of her citizens. The State is currently a major producer of rice and wheat, engaging her citizens actively on the farms. Also, Kebbi State has the highest percent of children under 5 who are stunted due to malnutrition (Source: National Population Commission of Nigeria and ICF International, Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2013). Efforts are already being taken to reduce this, leveraging strategic partnerships with local and international organisation. Kebbi State is doing better with the attention it is giving young people, especially picking on their interest in agriculture and technology. On education for girls, we encourage girls and women to take to schooling by sponsoring them and encouraging excellence where we find one.

As a professional, what is your view on women empowerment? How important is girl child education? Are you doing anything to promote this?

Education is very important for every child whether boy or girl. There was a time when people thought that it was not necessary to educate girls. Now we have begun to realize that girls’ education is essential. The modern age is the age of awakening of girls. They are trying to compete with men in all spheres of life. There are many people who oppose girls’ education. They say that the proper sphere of girls is the home. So, they argue that the money spent on girl’s education is wasted. This view is wrong, because girl’s education can bring about a silent resolution in the society. Even after so many programs and policies of the government, we are still lagging behind in providing education to the girl child. The problem here is not in implementation but in the level of commitment of people in general. Until we create awareness amongst people about the benefits of women education, all these programs would not bring about the desired result. We fail to understand that men and women are two sides of the same coin-a girl is as much a part of the society as is a boy. They all represent the future of tomorrow. They both need to be given equal opportunities for the wholesome growth of the nation.

source Business day online

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