Married and a mom of two, Dr. Tania Gahama Ineza is a medical doctor from the Frank Ogden School of Medicine at Hope Africa University. She is passionate about health education, youth and women empowerment, and family health. Mandela Washington Fellow, she is now doing a Master of Family Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. She is the co-founder and Chairperson of Uzima, a non-profit organization that has a vision of health promotion through health education, capacity building for health proffessionals and advocacy for universal health coverage.
When Tania was in medical school, she had an opportunity of working for months in rural areas in their clinical rotations. That is when she realised the huge need of health promotion in the communities. « I felt like, even if being in a medical office is very needed to help, it won’t be sufficient for me. We need to find solutions of health issues starting in communities through different initiatives. One of the many barriers I saw is low health education that leads to conditions that can be preventable if we invest in teaching about health in communities. »
« Promoting life, life with dignity, uzima“
Uzima means life in swahili. Tania chose this name because their motto is “promoting health, promoting life” and their logo is a human cell. « While promoting health, ultimalty we will be promoting life, life with dignity, uzima », she puts
Hence Uzima envisions to promote health by reaching out people in communities and teach them about health, conducting projects that empower health proffessionals in a low ressource setting, to create solutions and advocate for access to healthcare. « We do beleive that our communities need to be empowered according to their health and not waiting until the time they are already in hospital », she says.
Uzima was generated by Dr. Tania medical thesis. “Just after presenting my medical thesis. At the end of medical school, we are requested to write a thesis and mine was on “Factors that contribute to medical compliance to short term antibiotics prescibed in consultation”. She wanted to know what are the barriers that make someone not to follow recommendations given by a medical doctor, when it is the only way to heal from a condition. While doing the research, she realised all the barriers that patients had to face. Uzima was born.
An organization that cares about community healthcare
One of Uzima program is on breast cancer. They have been raising awareness on breast cancer for the last 4 years. « Breast cancer is a silent killer. Many women live with it. They go to see the doctor when it starts hurting. Most of time, it is already late for a treatment that can cure it completly », regret Dr. Tania
After their session, women empowered with the right information, feel confident to get screened and diagnosed at early stage and get treated. The idea that their work can save even one life is more than rewarding for them. « That is what pushes us to continue impacting our community through health promotion, one step at time. As Lao Tzu said, “The journey of thousand miles begins with one step” .»
According to Dr. Tania, the first years of non-profit organization are usually difficult. This is why is hard to access fund at the beginning and also having volunteers. « But with commitment and consistency, we can overcome it», she enthusiasts.
Her dream is to be remembered as someone who cares about community health. « There is a quote that says that “Nobody cares about how much you know until they know how much you care.” And for our non-profit, I dream that we could be remembred as advocates for better health systems.»
Dr. Tania encourages the young to never give up. “Be bold and believe in you. If you have an idea, go ahead and make it a reality. Don’t wait for the perfect time, create it. Even if you fail, you will be learning. Keep it up. »