Eunice Nyambura Chege
2010 - For the JPO Stories, Eunice Nyambura Chege gives an account of her experience as a JPO in Tanzania. Funded by Belgium, she works for WHO in Dar es salaam, where her core professional concerns range in the field of making pregnancy safer.
Shikamoo from Tanzania!
Where are you from?
I am from Kenya, and my JPO assignment is funded by Belgium.
What is your background?
Registered nurse/midwife with masters in public health
What has been your assignment as a JPO?
My assignment has been great I have had the opportunity to work for mothers and children and also practice it having been blessed with a baby boy during this period. It was fun practising all I have been telling people to do.
What was the most enriching and/or challenging project that you have worked on?
My most challenging project has been the area of maternal mortality reduction. The maternal mortality is contributed by many factors both institutional and community based. The effort to bring this together has been frustrating as some inefficiency and unforeseen needs/demands keep coming up. It is an area where by commitment by all parties is really paramount and this does not always happen however the pressure continues.
What has been your most enriching professional achievement so far, if different from the previous answer?
Most enriching professional achievement is the completion of a midwifery competency study in the country which will be a base of many decisions in curricula review for midwives in an effort to ensure competent skilled care for women in Tanzania thus reducing maternal mortality.
What is the set of skills that you had or that you developed, which were key to your assignment?
Patience, tolerance, being accommodative and always anticipating that changes might occur in the course of my work have helped me to remain calm and learn to negotiate with partners and colleagues.
Can you give a personal impression of your duty station?
The people are united by one language Swahili and thus never deal on their tribal linkages much. It was rare to find two people from the same tribe speaking their dialect. If planning on working in Tanzania, It is very important for one to learn Swahili as most small talk goes on in Swahili. That way you will always be on board on most issues.
What was most challenging/difficult to adapt to?
Having come from the neighbouring country there was not much to adopt but apart from learning the perfect Kiswahili. They always made fun of me for speaking "Kenyan Swahili" (Usually not good grammatically).
How would you describe the living conditions in a basic outline?
The living conditions are good, lots of beaches and social places too but one has to contend with the heat during some months when it gets very hot.
Have you experienced what in general terms one might refer to as a "culture shock"?
My cultural shock was having to use the phrase (Naomba) "borrow" at the shop. Here it is a sigh of respect and not necessarily implying you are asking to be given free of charge while the same in Kenya implies begging free of charge. I had to always practice what I would say before I reached the shop as I never wanted to offend them by asking in a manner that would be perceived rude.
Which aspects of the duty station’s cultural environment have you experienced as most enriching, impressive and/or challenging?
I was fascinated by the fact that people recognize their elder by greeting them "Shikamoo" (good morning or afternoon to someone older than you) regardless of whether you are junior or senior staff. This for me was a good thing to see even seniors using the greeting to their juniors as a sign of respect and recognition of age difference. Well I had to learn to almost always say shikamoo and I must say I got really excited when someone said shikamoo to me that I almost forgot to answer marahaba (Fine thank you) as it was a very rare occasion and the word feels like a tongue twister especially when one is not used to it.
Which challenges have you faced in your JPO assignment with regard to your personal familial situation? How did you deal with them?
No challenges experienced as the duty station was very convenient for me having come from across the border and the transportation between the two countries is good. This was convenient for family members could come in and out conveniently.
What are your major lessons learned during your JPO assignment in terms of professional growth, career planning and opportunities?
My major professional growth has been enriched in the sense that my perspectives have been broadened. I can now look at issues not only from the program/beneficially level but also nationally, across sectors, regionally and internationally. I have also appreciated the role of human rights in relation to health and especially women’s health and how the two interact and complement each other.
What is your motivation to work in the field of development?
My motivation to work in development is that the work done in development has great impact on the lives of the people thus worth every effort.
What in your career set the path for you to enter the JPO programme?
I started my career as a volunteer with International Rescue Committee in Kakuma refugee camp Kenya where later I became the Community outreach manager. In 2004 I went to Darfur (Sudan) with the same organisation to start up emergency health programs for the internally displace people of Darfur. I later Joined International Medical Corps still in Darfur where I stated training national midwives who were working in the camps. Following the intense humanitarian assistance work I felt the need to broaden my education. I joined Cardiff University UK in 2005 for masters in public health and on completing I joined Cardiff council but my desire to work in the development world was so strong. In 2007 I joined Save the Children UK as a health program coordinator in Sierra Leone, Kailahun district where I oversaw the running of a maternal and child health program. Having desired to work for the UN I applied for the JPO post in 2008 and was delighted to get it.
What are your future career plans, if it is not too early to say?
I would like to pursue my PHD and also continue with the international work with more focus to human rights and health. It is my desire to always learn new things.
What role has your JPO assignment played in your career-related considerations?
My JPO assignment has been integral in my career considerations. I have learned that there is still so much we have to learn in this life to improve our lives and the lives of those around us.
By the way...
"We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee." – Marian Wright Edelman
My son, he has given me the courage to move on and a reason to look forward to a brighter tomorrow.