Saleema Rehman: a truth telling story

A mother with her daughter A mother with her daughter © Photo by FG Trade on iStock

Today Saleema Rehman is  a renowned gynecologist in Pakistan, her homeland, but her story did not begin in an easy way. On the contrary, her birth was difficult and she was expected to die, due to her mother, a refugee, struggling to get medical assistance. 

She struggled against a long series of difficulties and obstacles, mainly due to her refugee birth status, but this never bothered her too much because she was, as she recounts, one of the fewest women sitting at school desks, despite the criticism from her village and the entire community. She stayed loyal to her principles and, after applying for two straight years to university, she finally obtained the only seat reserved annually for a refugee to study medicine in Pakistan’s Punjab province. She later specialized in gynaecology after being selected again for a residency at Rawalpind’s Holy Family Hospital, also in Punjab. 

However, Saleema’s dream was not to just work in the hospital, though the Holy Family complex would have later been declared a COVID-19 first response center. In fact, she had always desired to open her own private clinic to assist many refugee families who couldn’t afford healthcare assistance. Finally, this dream also came true in January this year, when Seleema got the license to open a clinic in Attock. 

“The opening of this clinic was a very happy event for us”, says Anila, one of Saleema’s Afghan refugee patients who couldn’t afford the cost of expensive clinics in her own country. 

At her clinic, Saleema is also promoting hygienic practices and dispelling false myths about COVID-19 vaccines. 

In the end, all her work prompted the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to award her with the prestigious regional Nansen Refugee Award for Asia, an annual prize that honours those  first in line in the fight to help refugees, displaced or stateless people. 

 

Sources: 

https://www.unhcr.org/news/stories/2021/9/614c7fe04/afghan-refugee-doctor-dares-women-girls-dream.html

 

Author: Pasquale Candela; Editor: Valentina Cova

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