Henrietta combs her hair before going to the District Headquarter Medical Team (DHMT) office. She plans to finalize her work transfer today by giving all the necessary documents to them. Upon arriving, her new colleagues welcome her very warmly, but ultimately ask her to return the next day. The supervisor called in sick and couldn’t approve the paperwork today. Henrietta, a nurse, wants to switch hospitals from Bo city to the smaller town where her children attend school. She wants to supervise their work and make sure they succeed. She reminisces about her childhood, fondly remembers her late father, and talks about her path to nursing.
I grew up in Sumbuya, a fishing town. I remember the Sewa River being close to the town and crossing it with a ferry. My uncle, aunt, and grandmother would mostly fish at night when fish sleep and can easily be caught. They used either hook-and-line or nets and sold their catch around town and in markets. I never went fishing or swimming in the Sewa because I feared the water’s big size, but I loved eating whatever my family caught—catfish, snakefish, snapper, herring, crab, and more.
When I was small I ate so much from the coconut farms near my home. Even now my late sister’s son brings bags of coconut for me whenever he leaves Sumbuya. In my hometown there’s also palm tree farms. My father planted many and his younger sister processes the palm nuts into oil and brings it to me.
My father always cooked goat for me in my youth and whenever I visited him as an adult with my children. I miss him. He passed away in 2015 during the Ebola outbreak, but not from it. He died because of high blood pressure. One day my family wanted to take him to the government hospital for an emergency, but they couldn’t find a vehicle. When they finally did, he died before reaching. Whenever I listen to olden days’ music on the radio I think about my papa. He especially loved one song called “My Lovely Elizabeth” by SE Rogie. The lyrics talk about SE Rogie’s love for his woman Elizabeth. It reminds me that every husband should love his wife.
I always wanted to be a nurse and save lives. Instead I married and became a housewife for eleven years. During this time my husband taught in schools and studied at university. When he finished his first degree, he encouraged me to enter college. He said, “You should too do something”.
I attended Maternal & Child Health (MCH) Aid Nursing School in my early 30s to find ways I could help lower maternal mortality. The administration and professors helped me do very well. After finishing all my courses in a few years, I started working at Bo Primary Health Unit (PHU). I was happy to bring money to the house just like my husband. It was my own choice to leave PHU’s main building and work at a Community Health Center (CHC) in Gbahama village. I wanted to see how people lived in the village since I grew up in a town. Though my work was simple, I felt isolated being in a hard to reach area. I have lots of friends there but it is away from my family. I worked in Gbahama for one year. I’m now transferring to the town where my husband and children live. I’m very happy.
My advice to women and wives? Do not be afraid to study and find work outside of your home if that’s what you want to do. You can be a good housewife and also be a successful working woman. I want to tell husbands that they should encourage their wives to better themselves. Husbands should learn what their wives want to do, and support the work that the women feel will bring benefit to the home.