Ciku (Wanjiku) Mathenge
The Power List 2021 – Power List
Consultant Ophthalmologist and Director of Training at the Rwanda International Institute of Ophthalmology, and Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Rwanda, Rwanda
What is your proudest professional achievement?
It’s hard to pick one, but let me say that as a medical retina specialist, I did not expect to ever be asked to come up with a primary eye care curriculum. When WHO released the algorithm-based curriculum that I had developed for the Africa region, I felt really pleased. But I felt even prouder when I visited a health center in the depths of Rwanda a year later, and found three nurses whose only ophthalmic knowledge came from this curriculum, and who were able to efficiently, correctly, and proudly manage a clinic of 40 patients with different eye complaints.
Why is it important to celebrate women in the field this way?
I realize now that very few women have previously made it onto the Power Lists and I salute those who did. It is clear that right from the days of Georg Bartisch, male ophthalmologists have had a head start in this field, and it is unrealistic to ignore that. Those men earned their positions – but they also knew how to claim their positions. A female-specific list will make people realize that there are actually women out there who are making an impact in spite of the late start and lack of visibility. Women approach things differently; acknowledging this improves creativity in our field and opens up opportunities to produce differing solutions to the same problems that men are working on.
What can be done to make the field more diverse?
There has definitely been a lack of not just gender-based diversity, but also geographical diversity. There should be a recognition that people are positioned differently in the field of ophthalmology in relation to access to opportunities and ability to claim recognition. Perhaps in the future, you could make participation available for everybody by creating Power Lists by region, from which you then generate an annual global Power List. I hope that diversity will not forever be something we aspire to have, but that one day we will be looking back at the “normality of diversity.”
Outside of ophthalmology, what makes you happy?
I have had very little time in the recent past to pursue what makes me happy outside ophthalmology, but I want to dedicate more time to that now. I am happiest when my family is happy. I am also happy when I get on to a tennis court and remember the good old days when I played really well. Finally, I always feel happy creating – new recipes, new clothes, new garden layouts, new IT solutions.