Heroines of our time: Frontliners on the fight against COVID 19 film – Director’s post production reflections

In the wake of COVID-19, UN Women partnered with us to produce sensitization films on the devastating consequences of COVID-19 Cameroon on women and appreciation for the front line women leading the fight against COVID-19. After the production, Director nd screenwright Njobati Sylvie penned down this reflection

It is Monday 25th of May 2020 in Bamenda, North West Region of Cameroon. Tension is rising, complications setting in as Cameroon’s minister of health announces Cameroon’s entry into the complication phase of COVID 19 and Cautions everyone on the need for responsibility to be able to curb the spread of Covid. Cameroon has just smashed the curve to stand as giant on the weekly rise in cases reaching 4890 confirmed cases, 165 deaths and 1,865 recoveries.

Pressure is mounting, but not proportionately in the town of Bamenda already hit by an armed conflict. As everyone else goes about their daily lives, Health Care workers are far from being normal. In the regional hospital of Bamenda, Women make up a greater proportion of Covid 19 frontline workers. From security to counselors, these women risk their lives every day to save humanity.

 Picture: Mambo Augusta left(Lead Actress) and Aline right (Supporting actress) on set for the film “Heroines of our Times” by UN Women – produced by REGARTLESS formerly known as Sysy House of Fame. Patient – Ferdinand K.

A Monday at the COVID 19 Solidarity ward – Regional hospital Bamenda.

As you may already know, women make up 70% of the world’s health care workers supporting the fight against COVID 19. The reality here is even more marveling – about 95%. As I walked to the COVID 19 solidarity center in Bamenda where pre isolation, Isolation and almost every other thing is done apart from treatment of positive cases, a brave woman sat in a small airtight room at the gate. Dressed in yellow pants with black stripes, Yellow shirt and yellow face cap as if to say she were a sunflower marine.  Only difference here is, this sunflower marine is fighting an invisible enemy. Face mask on, hand gloves in position and disinfectant in hand to ‘leave no one behind’ in the fight against covid. “What can I do for you”, she asked. She was there to ensure security around the center. I smiled, not because I was feeling better from inside, but because I was elated at the bravery of this woman whom everyone passes through to the center. After telling her I would love to see my friend Joy whom had earlier supported me in a film production that showcases the efforts of women on the frontline against covid, she let me in.

Picture: A nurse sensitising the public on COVID 19 at the Regional hospital with a loud speaker and hand microphone

There I am in front of another woman who tells everyone not to “be scared, everything is going to be alright”. How does she even do this? I am wondering from within. Isn’t she scared? Does she deeply believe that everything will be alright?. Whatever the answers to these are, the important thing is that she gives up the luxury of fear, the ignorance of disbelief just to ensure that she inspires hope and drive away fear. She is not oblige to but she does it any ways. After my brief discussion with Joy, she reminded me of the rules around there and offered me a sit.  

Once again, I was adjacent to this woman in a beautiful African print outfit. She looked as graceful as her dress. I could tell that she was waiting for something. What else can you wait for in a covid center – Actually a lot – Collection of samples, lab results, consultations, caring for someone? She was comfortable and looked familiar. She must be waiting for results then, I thought, in that case she must work in the hospital to come for test results and not wait to be called. A lot of random thoughts. Although they were not exact, they were close. She is one of the five female nurses in a unit at the hospital. She and two of her colleagues have just tested positive for COVID 19. She had worked on 2 suspected cases that all died. After taking care of the corpses, test results of these suspected cases came out positive. Then she knew she knew they all needed to test. With three out of five colleagues positive, that leaves a whole active unit to two nurses. I smell trouble.

 Picture: On set of ” Heroines of our Times”

Joy was quite busy – assisting care takers to give patients food, disinfecting the whole place, counseling the nurse who was positive, filling forms and making calls here and there to seek support and ensure all was going well. She had just gotten out of the isolation ward and needed some support in being disinfected and cleaning around. This time a more elderly woman, could be in her late 50s or early 60s stepped out to support. She is the janitor at the center. I smiled so broad that she could notice through my mask. Indeed, these women are the heroines of our time.

I was about to leave. Just when I thought I had seen all the glory, another woman in white lab jacket, got in and greeted. I was very curious as she was relaxed but looked very tired. She was the lab technician in charge of collecting nasal swap samples for testing. Now I felt like staying and having a round table discussion with these ladies. I would ask them how they are doing, what they wish for, the first thing they would do when COVID is all over. But these are not normal times. I greeted my friend joy and the other women and wished them all the best.

As I returned home, I couldn’t help but smile at every woman I saw on the streets. To every woman out there scaling up support to fight against COVID and enhance recovery, we are here for you.

Picture: Nurse disinfecting visitors and patients as they enter the hospital

                                        By Njobati Sylvie


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