“The colour of your skin isn’t your problem, it’s someone else’s” - says Cecilia Anim on her fall and rise to the Presidency of the Royal College of Nursing
Cecilia Anim, president of the Royal College of Nursing and sexual health nurse at CNWL, spoke to aspiring staff members about working for success.
The evening talk took place as part of Black History Month and Cecilia regaled the audience with her tales of her early days in Ghana where living near to a maternity unit inspired her to become a midwife; and where the local hospital’s mode of transport - the transit van - doubled up as an ambulance, noting it was “goods in, patients out”.
Having decided to come to the UK in the early 70s to become a nurse, the then Miss Mills (Cecilia’s maiden name) recalled one experience where at a job interview she waited patiently for 2 hours to be called. As prospective candidates came and went, a staff member shouted: “Where is Miss Mills, she’s 2 hours late”. Cecilia promptly answered that she was Miss Mills, to the response: “Oh, my God, she’s black”. Cecilia retorted: "Well don’t blame me!” That early experience Cecilia said taught her that the colour of your skin isn’t your problem. It’s someone else’s.
Cecilia took the audience on a journey through her life: a marriage of 36 years, following a chance meeting in Brussels. A mum of 2; one child with a learning disability, who Cecilia fought tirelessly for to get the support she needed. And of course her work as a nurse at the Margaret Pyke Centre in London, where she’s worked since 1979.
Her move through the ranks of the Royal College of Nursing was not a smooth one. Having sought to become a council member and lost, she didn’t give up. The experience left her angry so she decided to do something about it – run for Deputy President! And she won. Subsequently becoming the President of the RCN. Of this experience she says the words of President Obama’s inauguration speech gave her the inspiration she needed: “we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again”.
And as Claire Murdoch, CNWL Chief Executive aptly summed up in her address: “Cecilia is a woman who knows how to make things happen. She’s risen a long way and she’s an extraordinary woman who’s achieved so much. I’m in awe.”