– Expresses hope of emergence of ALPian PSN president in near future
Pharm. (Mrs) Victoria Ukwu is the newly elected national chairperson of the Association of Lady Pharmacists (ALPs). In this exclusive chat with Temitope Obayendo, Ukwu discloses the several roles the interest group of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has played in empowering women and the girl child. She also expresses her dream for ALPs and Nigerian pharmacists in general.
Congratulations on your new appointment as the new national chairperson of ALPs. How do you feel about this new role?
I feel a sense of responsibility for my fellow ALPians to have recognised my contributions to ALPs and had voted me to pilot the affairs of ALPs National.
Association of Lady Pharmacists is known for different health awareness programmes at state levels, but not much is heard of at the national level. Now that you have emerged, what is your vision for the association?
ALPs National has been involved in advocacy visits. We paid courtesy visits to the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole in 2017 and the wife of the President, Hajia Aisha Buhari, on 15 May, 2018. Part of the outcome of the visit to the wife of the President was the appointment of Prof. Oluwatoyin Odeku, dean, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Services, University of Ibadan, as a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA).
I agree that we have not done much publicity due to financial constraints and that’s why my vision is to publicise ALPs National, who we are and our activities both nationally and internationally.
Beyond advocacy, what is your plan to impact the society more with your outreaches?
To impact the society more with our outreaches, ALPs National plans to celebrate some of the world health days, carry out medical outreaches, organise workshops and trainings for women, organise radio talk shows to educate the public and so forth.
It is election year for PSN, what areas of the profession would you like the next PSN president to focus on?
ALPs would want the new PSN president to focus on better recognition of the pharmacy profession and subsequently the recognition of pharmacists, especially the consultant pharmacists; empowerment of pharmacists; creating conducive atmosphere for pharmacy practice; and partnering with ALPs to fulfil her goals, vision and projects.
Again, it has been observed that ALPs national and most branches, with the exception of Lagos, have not been active in the news and on social media. How do you hope to bridge this gap in communication?
ALPs is made up of national and state branches. ALPs has been involved in various activities in the different states with little or no publicity, I agree with you. I had a meeting with ALPs Lagos State and discussed on the issue of publicity and the conclusion is to set up a publicity committee. So, at our meeting during the PSN conference in Ibadan, the publicity committee will be constituted.
As an interest group of the PSN, are there some of your programmes tilted towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
Yes, some of our programmes are titled towards achieving the SDGs. The 27 goals of the SDGs were set by the UN and the deadline for achieving these targets is year 2030. Before the declaration of the SDGs, ALPs has been working actively on six major goals. The first is no poverty. ALPs has been involved in the empowerment of women, especially lady pharmacists, through the various branches of the ALPs Cooperative. Through the cooperative, our women have access to finance for various businesses. We also created opportunities for our ladies to showcase and sell products during conferences.
The second goal is zero hunger. In a bid to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, ALPs, through her Project 91 (cultivation of medicinal plants), is encouraging the cultivation and consumption of local, natural and highly nutritious but neglected indigenous crops like the folio rice (Acha). These plants are not just highly nutritious, but they are readily available.
ALPs has been involved in food fairs, which enlightened people about availability of different agricultural products and how some can be cultivated and used as food. Project 91 also provided recipes on how best to use and maintain nutritional contents. The interesting thing is that there is an exchange of cultural values. Foods that were normally alien to some have become widely acceptable, providing more options for consumption and staying healthy.
The third goal is good health and well-being. ALPs has gone all out to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being at all ages. We are into the promotion of research and use of readily available/affordable herbal (alternative) medicines. We are also in the forefront of the campaign against drug and substance abuse by the youths through her awareness programmes. ALPs is also part of health campaigns against diseases in the society.
Our fourth area of focus is quality education. Through our visits to schools, ALPs has promoted and still promoting inclusive and quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all, especially women.
This leads me to the next goal, which is gender equality. Being a gender-based association, all our programmes carry gender equality undertones and empowerment for women and the girl child. This explains why Benue and Lagos State ALPs are offering scholarships to the indigent girl child.
Last but not the least is clean water and sanitation. We organise enlightenment campaigns in public places and schools. We also donate sanitation items to schools and institutions, such as rehabilitation centres, old people’s homes and many of the like. In promoting clean water and sanitation, Rivers State ALPs is into production of water purifier and Sodium hypochlorite solution.
Where do you hope to see ALPs national in the next ten years?
For ALPs in the next ten years, I want to see a force to reckon with beyond the pharma family. I want to see highly empowered lady pharmacists. I want to see a very vibrant group that every member of the society will want to identify with; and finally, I want to see an ALPian as the PSN president in the nearest future.