? My Take On It                                                      August 17, 2018


Janet Karim

Three women on my mind: Dr. Borgstein, Ms. Aretha Franklin and Mme. Bachelet


Our chief paediatric specialist, Dr. Mrs. Anke Borgstein, has been at this hospital for the whole of those 40 years. She deserves our unreserved admiration, thanks, and praise. — Liz Molyneux speech



This week’s My Take On It is dedicated to three women on my mind: a paediatrician with 40-year service to Malawi’s children’s health, a music diva championing cancer gone and being mourned, and a former two-time president at the UN again.

Former Chief Paediatrician at Malawi’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital Dr Anke Borgstein, a dedicated doctor who served for over 40 years, passed away and was buried quietly and without much fanfare or pause. This is despite her relentless dedicated service to saving in pristine fashion, the medical needs of Malawi’s children – for 40 years. This is longer than the time former President Dr. Banda was in office.


Malawi is considered a young nation with over 45% of the population being below the age of 12 years, reports the College of Medicine. As former Head of the Department of Paediatrics at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital Dr Mrs. Borgstein, wife of late Dr. Jan Borgstein, was a champion and dedicated children’s doctor who anchor of our children’s health.

When it came to children’s health, doctors, nurses, mothers feared her, in case you did something she deemed threatened the life of the child.

“Inu aMai, munali opusa! You feed your son, artificial milk” she once told my Mom when she took one of her sick grand nephews. She did not hold back when Mom told her, she is only the grandmother….

  1. In numerous cases in the country, when other doctors failed to treat children, Dr. Mrs. Borgstein was the to-go-to solution, the fix-it person for children’s health. In her death and interment, there were no state funeral or presence to shepherd the nation mourns a profoundly medical professional – I liken her championing of children’s medical health to be close to Mother Teresa.

Dr. Mrs. Borgstein is a hero and a day should be commemorated in her honor; building, streets and boulevards should be named after her.

A few weeks back, we celebrated with her son for separating Siamese twins; a feat people are still summersaulting all over the world. Dr. Mrs. Anke Borgstein is on my mind.

Rest in God’s eternal loving peace (RIGELP).

This past Sunday, I joined the global soul community, pining over news that the Queen of soul, Ms. Aretha Franklin was in hospice care at her home. She passed on into Soul Heaven on Thursday morning. The 76-year-old singer was gravely ill and surrounded by loving friends and family. surrounded by love, and the world sending prayers.

Franklin’s career spanned six decades with many signature chart-busting songs, her first major hit was in1968, when Franklin was an established soul chart-topper with hits like “Respect,” “Chain of Fools,” Think, and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”

Later her relevance transcended into the civil rights and political podiums: she was tapped to sing at the memorial service of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. where she performed a stirring rendition of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” She has performed at the inaugurations of three presidents: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. President George W. Bush awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. She later became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1987 — a year before the Beatles. Franklin has 44 Grammy nominations and 18 wins. As the world mourns, recalling when last they interacted with her, a heaviness fills my heart.

Aretha Franklin is on my mind, and I can still remember, newly arrived from the UK, looking at my elder Sis Rose Banda dancing to “Respect;” it was a matter of shaking of the Brit “shake moves” and capturing the soul beat as Aretha belted out “….just a little bit, when I get home….” She was my late Sister Miriam’s favourite singer. O Irvington and Aretha Franklin on my mind!

Rest in God’s eternal loving peace (RIGELP).

In February 2012, I had the opportunity to sit close and personal with Madame Michelle Bachelet (full name Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria) a Chilean politician who was the President of Chiletwice, from 2006 to 2010 and from 2014 to 2018, and thefirst woman in her country to occupy this position.

After leaving the presidency and while not immediately re-electable, she was appointed the first executive director of the newly created United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). It was in this capacity that I sat next to Madame Bachelet; I was to be Vice President of the Bureau of UN Women Executive Board. In her quiet way she told me she had met my President (Late Bingu wa Mutharika) and had talked about working to improve the lives of women in Malawi.

Several weeks later Bingu passed away; and more weeks later, I was sitting in a UN Women board meeting, and as a delegate from the Malawi Mission, I noted that the agency would not be opening an office in Malawi; after consulting my Ambassador Brian Bowler, I made a request for the UN agency to reconsider and to open an office in Malawi, to help the government of Dr. Joyce Banda, the country’s first woman champion gender equality, end to violence against women and girls, fight escalating child marriages.

Madame Bachelet and her management team consulted and informed me at the meeting that a UN Women branch would be established by the end of the year.

In December 2013, Madame Bachelet was re-electedpresident of Chile with over 62% of the vote.. She was the first president to be re-elected since 1932.

In August 2018, the United Nations nominated her to become the next United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, replacingZeid Raad Al Hussein.

My fellow Malawians, are you watching? This is how you use your former political leaders and professionals: you support them to get into high UN positions. You shouldn’t be plotting to send them to jail or harass them and heap all manner of insults and abuse on your own people. No. Please drop your hatchets and send your former Presidents and/or former Vice Presidents to the United Nations. Let me name them, there is Dr. Bakili Muluzi, Dr. Joyce Banda, Dr. Cassim Chilumpha, Dr. Justine Malewezi, Mr. Khumbo Kachale; plus, two former chief justices.

Madame Michele Bachelet is on my mind, moving from one high office after another; weaving in and out of high national political office to the United Nations. To you Madame Bachelet, we salute you!

This is what democracy looks like.



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