Friday, March 7, 2014

A nurse and journalist who was truly fearless in confronting authority in both Church and State

Mrs Bijou Edith Ernestine Bidwell Nee Peters 1927 – 2014

Bijou Peters (Photo credit: Gamcotrap)
Bijou Edith Ernestine Bidwell Nee Peters was the eldest daughter of the late Mr Lenrie Peters and Mrs Kezia (Broderick) Peters of Bathurst (now Banjul), The Gambia. 

She was born on the 29th of March 1927 in Freetown, Sierra Leone and educated in her school days at St. Mary’s Anglican Primary School and Methodist Girls High School, under the educationist Mrs Norah Senior, MBE and missionary from Somerset, UK. She was Head Girl and passed the senior Cambridge School Certificate Exam.

She died on February 12, 2014 at 86 years of age. Prayers where held at St. Paul’s Parish Church, Fajara and buried at the Banjul Cemetery on Monday, March 3, 2014.

Bijou Peters, as she was widely known, chose nursing as a career and in order to pursue it, she studied at Bristol Royal Infirmary and Kings College Hospital where she became a state registered nurse (S.R.N) and then a state certified midwife (S.C.M).

In 1955 she was appointed Nursing Sister at the Royal Victoria Hospital (now Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital), Banjul and later transferred to Basse URD (now URR) as sister. She returned to UK after marriage in order to do a course in Public Health (Community) Nursing.

Aunty Bijou married Dr Ernest Bidwell M.R.C.P in September 1956 and had two daughters, Alaphia and Oremie. She accompanied her husband as the WHO Representative to Mali, Nigeria, Dahomey, (now Benin) and Geneva. Aunty Bijou often described nursing as ‘her life,’ she was also passionate about and loved her garden, gardening and dogs. Ill health and age sadly stopped her from looking after her dogs and garden, particularly her anthurium.

Since her return to Banjul after living in Geneva for several years, Aunty Bijou took up journalism following a correspondence course at The London School of Journalism. She wrote prolifically for several of the Gambian newspapers including The Point and Daily Observer. In her writing she fought injustice and stood up for the underdog, she championed causes she believed in and sought to increase awareness on them. She discovered new and stimulating horizons and achieved self-fulfillment. She wrote under her maiden name and realized that she could use her pen to express injustice and seek welfare for the marginalised. She was truly fearless in confronting authority in both Church and State.

One of her concerns was the work and belief of GAMCOTRAP; she joined them in their fight to eradicate harmful traditional practices, such as FGM. As an advisor she sat on the board of the organisation for many years even travelling with the group to Ethiopia in the early days to attend international meetings on the subject. Here she saw graphic footage and heard from women who had suffered horrific experiences and the problems they have for years to come medically and psychologically. She remained dedicated to this charity and its work over the years, even getting one of her daughters very interested in the cause. They will surely miss their avid supporter.

She single-handedly at first, raised awareness of the plight of a young girl with third degree burns who otherwise might have died or remained handicapped with arms stuck to her body. With great determination she found sponsors (including surgeons) in the UK to bring relief to the girl who today is a young attractive woman in Lamin able to look after herself.

Bijou Peters was a great supporter of the Gambia Press Union and counsellor of young journalists.

Aunty Bijou was a committed Christian, a born and bred Anglican but a practicing ecumenist. She regularly worshipped at Bakau Methodist Church and had keen interest in Pentecostal Churches. Many years before she herself found complete healing for her acute vertigo through the prayers of two pastors of the Deeper Life Ministry, after conventional treatment from Geneva and Freetown failed to cure her. She was also a keen member of a Christian based group of women – Women at The Well.

From a shy and withdrawn young but self-willed woman, Aunty Bijou had developed into an activist with a wide agenda for putting things right everywhere! It was only ill health that slowed her down, and brought her good work to an end! She will be greatly missed by her family and wide circle of friends.

Aunty Bijou is survived by her two daughters, Alaphia and Oremie, the last of her siblings, Aunty Florence, cousins, nieces and nephews.

Source: The Voice

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