Here at CTS, we wanted to remember Dr Margaret Ogola, who died of cancer last month. We had been talking to her about writing for us or speaking at a future CTS Lecture before she became ill, and so we would like to pay tribute to some of her incredible work.
An award-winning author, medical doctor, and human rights advocate based in Nairobi, Kenya, Dr Ogola earned her First Degree, a Bachelor’s in Medicine & Surgery, in 1984. She worked at Kenyatta General Hospital in Nairobi, as a consultant pediatrician, while also campaigning and drawing attention to the results of western government aid programmes, and she still found time to win the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature and the 1995 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book in Africa, for her novel The River and the Source.
A year before, at the United Nations’ Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Dr Ogola had pointed out that a woman in need of an antibiotic for a sick child would have to pay for the syringe, for the needle, and for the antibiotic, otherwise her child would not be treated. However, the same woman seeking contraception could obtain every variety under the sun at the brand-new family planning clinic next to her hospital, completely free of charge, courtesy of Western nations.
This uncompromising defence of women and children was combined with a simplicity of living which struck SPUC director John Smeaton deeply:
“Visiting the Ogolas’ home in Nairobi in 1997 was humbling. The simplicity with which she and [her husband] George, also a doctor, and their large family lived – and carried out their selfless humanitarian work – is something I will never forget.”
Dr Ogola also helped found and manage the SOS HIV/AIDS Clinic in April 2004 for people living with AIDS which looks after the medical and nutritional needs of around 1,000 people from slums around Nairobi.
She was an advisor to the Kenyan Catholic bishops on issues of family and health, and a member of Opus Dei who believed in the value of every human person, as she told the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995:
“Unless we recognise that each individual is irrepeatable and valuable by virtue of simply being conceived human, we cannot begin to talk about human rights. This includes the right to be born, as all of us have enjoyed. True justice should be for each human being, visible and invisible, young and old, disabled and able, to enjoy fully their right to life. The accidental attributes that we acquire such as colour, sex, intelligence, economic circumstances, physical or mental disability should not be used as an excuse to deprive a person of life.”
She is survived by her husband, four children and two foster children. Please remember them all in your prayers, as you pray for her soul to be received into heaven.
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