Celebrating Black History Month: Eunice Bawafaa

February is Black History Month, an important time dedicated to honouring the achievements and contributions of Black individuals throughout history. While it’s important to acknowledge and learn from our history and legacies of racial discrimination, it is equally important to broaden the narrative and highlight the richness of accomplishments. 


Eunice Bawafaa: Nurturing Balance, Cultivating Resilience, and Amplifying Rural Women's Healthcare Experiences

Eunice Bawafaa is a PhD candidate in Nursing at the Faculty of Applied Sciences, researching women’s experiences and perceptions of access to reproductive healthcare in rural Ghana. 


What was a moment that made a significant impact on your growth as a student at UBC? 

“As an international student who left family and friends behind to further my education in Canada, there were a lot of things to deal with upon arrival. Emotional, physical, financial, social, cultural, relational, and spiritual. Coupled with these were academics; four courses per term plus a teaching assistant role upon arrival. I felt overwhelmed with the academic load, and I wasn’t doing so well emotionally being away from family and in very gloomy weather. I had to wake up to the reality of being a student and living up to academic expectations. In as much as it was tough settling down, I decided to prioritize 'ME.' I told myself that if I was not alive and well, the sacrifices of crossing oceans for an academic certificate would not be worth it. I made time each day to be just ME, to relax, to do something that made me smile and relax (watch a short comedy; meet with the few friends that I had made; take a bike ride with music to sing along; to sing songs that touched my soul and to dance along if I were cooking).

I started feeling whole and alive again and I scheduled doable study times evenly across my courses. My supervisor (Suzanne H. Campbell had a good listening ear) and she encouraged me and checked up on me often. At this point and with her support, I realized life was how I made it: Take challenges as opportunities to become better; let out the stress that overwhelmed me; do things that were within my limits; to know that I am here at UBC because I am qualified to be here and to set realistic goals. Finding a balance early in my academic journey here at UBC has impacted my personal and professional growth positively: I have come to know that personal and professional growth is all about finding a balance. One never waits for the other and if I am just being ME and unique in my capabilities, I can achieve anything I set my heart on."


Learning resilience and adaptability:

“Finding a room on, or near campus upon arrival was very challenging and I started school living in another student’s living room as a bedroom with all the inconveniences and having to abide by another student’s rules. This experience, compared to the comfort I left back home in Ghana, and coupled with the cultural isolation made me wonder if I made the right decision. I expected more in Canada; I needed more; and I was worth more. For weeks I was haunted by this and the thought of home every time brought me to tears. I had to rise above this psychological torture that was draining me, and I told myself this experience was designed to strengthen me. I told myself it wasn’t permanent and was only a stepping stone to settling in Vancouver. I looked at my situation differently from then because if not for Canada, I would have probably never experienced this belittling at this phase of my life. The positive thing about this experience was that it taught me resilience and adaptability. Coming to school in Canada became a bundle of experiences including my first living situation which I have preserved and hoped to share with my grandchildren by the fireside one day when the moon is at its fullest.” 


Any advice for incoming students and students of colour?

“As a student of colour myself, I can only tell you that you are the master artist of your life. Whatever you choose to carve, will come out just the way you anticipated it if you challenge yourself to it. Come out of your shell and meet people, attend programs and activities, and make time for self-care. UBC has a lot of resources but what UBC doesn’t have are mind readers. No one will knock on your door and ask what is going on inside you. You need to reach out and be proactive. Ask the right people the right questions and your life will be a living testimony to many. Be proactive and know that you are not alone in what you are going through. Reach out and there will always be a hand to hold onto. Finally, know that you are here because you deserve to be here; and this is where you belong.” 


Research highlight: Rural women’s experiences and perception of reproductive healthcare access in Wa-west district of Ghana

“Undertaking primary research in a rural community as a student taught me a lot of things that I haven’t seen in research books. Each setting has unique dynamics that are never clear cut and being in a rural community for four months dispelled a lot of the taken-for-granted assumptions that I held. The health needs of rural women are intertwined in a complex web. In as much as these women’s daily lives are complex, it is amazing how they get through life with little or non-existent resources. I experienced firsthand, the devastating effects that limited resources and lack of health choices have on the lives of these rural women. The research brought to the fore the daily rural struggles of women in navigating health access. This research project has taught me that life isn’t always what it seems to be especially for rural women, and I feel called and determined to help make a change in rural women’s health experiences.” 


Looking ahead, what are your aspirations and goals beyond your time as a student?

“Beyond my time as a student, I look forward to a long-term career goal of a nurse educator and researcher. I look forward to the use of evidence from research in making healthcare experiences better especially for rural women. Most of all, I look forward to a more inclusive healthcare delivery that meets the unique needs of specific settings and people.”


We will be posting more profiles of Black graduate students throughout the month of February. Visit our Black History Month page to learn more.

Monday, 12 February 2024