Nohémie Mawaka | Global Health Practitioner
My name is Nohémie Mawaka. I was born in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, and I have been living in Canada for seventeen years. Growing up in a low-income country really molds your character, unwillingly. From witnessing far too many women in my life staying in horrible marriages out of financial dependency, to my mother’s sister dying of AIDs (the medication only became available in Congo in the early 2000s); all of the women in my life being forced to accept their current life circumstances because society did not offer an alternative. This lead me to wanting to pursue medicine, in hope of one day returning to my country and providing basic healthcare services to vulnerable women, that way they may live longer and not die so soon like my aunt. My youth was also a time where I quickly became aware of the complex health challenges linked to social barriers, largely faced by women.
At the age of nine I immigrated to Montreal, Canada. During my final year of undergraduate studies in Waterloo (Canada), I applied to eight medical schools and did not get in. Thinking that my life was over and I would no longer be able to fulfill my dream of impacting the lives of vulnerable women, my mentor and supervisor at the World Health Organization where I was doing my summer internship in Kinshasa (DRC), encouraged me to pursue a master's degree in public (global) health. While I enjoyed my masters for opening my eyes to the complexity of our world, and social determinants of health factors that disproportionately put visible minority and women at a greater disadvantage of accessing adequate healthcare, especially those residing in underserved settings, what became evident during my studies was my frustration towards the academic world suppressing the youth imagination and limiting my voice to only being expressed through (boring) academic journals. I also realized seven years into my university education that I am a visual and practical learner, too much convoluted long text does not resonate with me. My philosophy is simple: Keep It Simple Stupid; if you can disseminate complex knowledge to my eight year old niece, while capturing and keeping her full attention, you should do the same to a twenty-four year old masters student (me last year).
To better understand the exhaustive academic literatures during my masters, in classrooms I would attempt to engage my classmates and instructors in discussing uncomfortable conversations, like sexual and reproductive health clearly being a woman’s issue, not just in the physical sense, but socially too. Or the fact that, HIV has historically been a poor person issue, if the majority of those living with HIV were wealthier and of different race, the rate of HIV would not have exacerbated into one of history’s biggest epidemics. Sadly, I quickly learned that voicing my passion, creativity and curiosity to think outside the box was what my classmate classified as falling into the stereotype of ‘the angry black woman’. That’s when I first I became aware of the fact that as women, we often do not support each other, even when it’s on a topic that clearly affects us all (sexual reproductive health). Discouraged by the lack of engagement in issues impacting women in underserved settings, I decided to take some much needed time to reflect on my life goals and strategize my future in global health.
Doing so lead me to asking myself the following: How do we create an innovative environment that celebrates the inclusion of complex global health topics that are so transnational, and impacts us all? How do we merge creativity, which attracts the mass, with such complex and convoluted academic jargon? This is how www.global-scie.net was born. Global Scie is a creative brand that aims to provide a new vision and lens to global health, through brief journal content with high quality photographs. The aim is to foster an environment where the support and mentorship of millennials interested in global health is encouraged, maintained, and celebrated. I want the power of storytelling to help creatives identify, visualize, and take the actionable steps towards their goals. I truly believe to be a pioneer in initiating a creative global health platform promoting topics that are of interest to aspiring young global health leaders, with the use of creativity. This inclusive digital space brands itself as a creative merge of engaging in critical dialogues impacting global health, from a self-expressive benefit to its readers. Together with my Youtube channel, my goal is to inspire other young women to think outside the box, take risks and lead by example to inspire others. I might have not become a doctor, but I would like to think that my boldness has an impact on others.
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