Art by Ameana Khan (HLA Scholar 2020-21 and Anaesthetic Registrar)
Background: I am a 34 year old female of Iraqi heritage. My father graduated from medical school in Basra, Iraq. His parents sent him to study his MRCP examinations in the UK as he was always one to speak up and never stay quiet, which led them to fear for his life living under the dictatorship regime of Saddam Hussein. My mother’s family are originally from Mosul in Iraq, but moved to Beirut, Lebanon, as my grandfather felt it was a safer life for them. He had a successful career in Beirut but when the civil war broke out they came to London for safety, hoping to return to Lebanon once the war was over, but after 7 years of war, by the time the war ended, the U.K. had become their new home. My mother went on to study International Relations at University in London.
Professional career: GP.
- As an ethnic minority:
Despite being born in the UK, when I was young I was always aware that I was from an ethnic minority. At university I had my first experience of racism, medical students from out of London reacted to the diversity in London and made openly racist comments in front of me. Later putting on a head scarf during university I experienced a sudden lack of effort people made with me as I was no longer ‘cool’ living in a society where being cool can often be more important than being kind. At the same time this has always been overshadowed by those that go out of their way to show you it’s okay your different.
- As a woman:
I certainly feel blessed in this country to have laws in place that give me rights as a working woman such as maternity leave and have received a lot of support throughout my training, although at times I have certainly experienced a sense of resentment from fellow colleagues, and there still is a further way to go to bridge the gender inequality gap. Women are heroes that have to carry the next generation and that initial period of feeding and bonding is vital for the child’s development, a child that will hopefully contribute positivity to the future work force. The reality that we have no choice but to bear the children means men and women alike should accommodate the work place to make that compatible with work, it is a short but vital period of time where woman should not be made to feel guilty or less worthy at her work but her contribution celebrated and always made possible with ease. As a mother I question these ‘princess’ role models we still have for our daughters from a young age, then magazines plastered with the ‘perfect look’ as teenagers – the message you must be outwardly beautiful to be respected and worthy – teaching them to invest excess time into their looks (often at the detriment of their mental health), which in reality will benefit very little people, than one that has strived in inner beauty to benefit others and serve their community…that is the real hard work in this material word we live in today…and this is message I want to teach my daughters.
- As a mother:
I am blessed to now be a mother of 3 beautiful children. Initially as a full time trainee I experienced a lot of guilt that at times my child was paying the price and yet a sense of duty that as a doctor I have committed to a career of life long learning. Im grateful to now be able to work as a part time GP and give my children and my work my all. I’m fortunate my parents have always supported my career and my selfless mother is my hidden hero, of which all my success I owe to her.
Message: I hope when anyone looks at me with my scarf on and speaking Arabic to my children, they know I am also British. I love my background and embrace it as an adult, but I have also never set foot in Iraq before, and London is the only home I’ve ever known. My scarf is a symbol of my faith and my choice and certainly not suppression.
My fellow female ethnic BAME women if we respond to aversion with the best of character we can bring out the best in people, everything happens for a reason when one door closes for you a better one will open. Don’t let obstacles on your way ever stop you, be true to yourself. Keep your intentions good, work hard and when there’s a will there’s a way!
About This Art Series:
Inspired by the poster “We Can Do It” aka “Rosie the Riveter”, who has served as a powerful symbol to many women and has motivated and provided strength to many individuals throughout society. Ameana has created a series of work (which is on going) to celebrate the many strong women within out NHS workforce.
The NHS workforce is made up of a diverse community, however, like many organisation there are also some inequalities that are embedded within the NHS. In order to gain insight into the thoughts of other NHS workers, Ameana has requested her colleagues to be her muses and tell the story of their background and the challenges they have faced as women and as being a part of the ethnic minority. In her series of art pieces, she has used an urban style to-accentuate the powerful role the women play as NHS workers. She has written strong women in English as well as their native language.