By Adaeze Chikwe
The Medical Women’s Federation (MWF) is the largest UK body of female doctors and medical students. The organisation was founded in 1917 and to begin with the Federation launched campaigns promoting women in the armed forces, campaigns focusing on venereal disease, prostitution and maternity and infant welfare. An organisation so dedicated to prioritising the well-being of those who identify as women for over a century is why I am proud to have been elected as the president of the Newcastle medical student branch of MWF for 2020 to 2021.
As president this year I wanted the focus to be around intersectionality, with attention centred around the experiences of medics who are not only women, but are also women of colour, disabled, LGBTQ+ etc. We have already had our first talk of the year which was by a doctor who is a woman of colour, which really brought a refreshing perspective to medicine where being a white male is still seen as the ideal and norm.
The reason I have chosen to have such a large focus on intersectionality this year is because I am a woman of colour myself, and so often I have failed to see myself represented in medicine and in particular in high positions in healthcare.
I want to use this platform to demonstrate to other people of colour that we can reach the top and be the best regardless of gender, race and the box that society wants to squeeze us into. By bringing in powerful women of colour, disabled women, LGBTQ+ women and more to do talks we can inspire students who identify as such. We can give those that are used to seeing the archetypal straight white males glorified in our field the opportunity to see themselves as equally as powerful. Since we do not get a chance to see this diverse representation day to day it persists the toxic cycle of putting limits on our abilities, because if we are unable to see people like ourselves in those top positions surely it is an impossibility? A goal simply too hard to reach. It is time to change that way of thinking!
This is my first time being the president of a society so to begin with I was very anxious with the size of the responsibilities that I knew would have to be undertaken! But as a few of my nearest and dearest have reminded me, being a president isn’t about having to carry the burden of all the responsibilities on your own shoulders, but if you are lucky enough to have a helpful and capable committee (which I am!), tasks can be shared between everyone. In fact, all of these different ideas and perspectives allows your society to thrive even more.
As the past few months have shown, this is a time when those that have been consistently oppressed by society are rising up and growing into their power. I am so thankful to have the opportunity to be in such a position at a time when people are so receptive to change and hearing from often less-heard perspectives. Hopefully this will be an inspiring and a productive year for all!