Women At The Top Awards: Meet Dr. Safia Jabeen, The Health Pioneer

We've scoured the UK to find the most inspirational innovators for Marie Claire's Women At The Top Awards, in association with Windows 10 and Freixenet. Meet Dr Safia Jabeen, one of the ten game-changers who has shaped 2015.

It’s been two years since Safia Jabeen, 43, opened the Chandni Clinic in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, giving hundreds of Muslim women a safe place to talk about their sexual health for the first time. Now, with patients traveling across the UKto be seen by her, the 43-year-old is in the process of setting up similar clinics across the country. Last year, she won five awards for her work, including the Brook Adult Sexual Service/Project Of The Year Award.

‘I trained as a doctor in Pakistan. I worked as an obstetrician and gynaecologist before coming to the UK in 2003. When I started working here, I could see that many Asian women coming into my clinics had sexual health problems, but they couldn’t seek advice because of the cultural taboos.

Many of my patients don’t know they have an STI. One of the first women to come into my clinic was pregnant, and had genital warts. She was from Pakistan, but had married an Asian man who was raised in the UK. Her sister-in-law was with her, so they both heard the diagnosis. But while her sister-in-law understood it was caused by her brother’s infidelity, I could see that my patient had no idea. Later, I found out the husband’s family blamed her, and kicked her out.

My role goes way beyond my job specification. In the above case, my patient ended up calling me from Birmingham, where she was living with her newborn baby. She didn’t know who else she could turn to. It’s hard work, but the women keep me going.

It was tough to broach the subject of sex and make it acceptable. I started by teaching people about general health in local community centres. From this general medical talk we would shift into gynaecological problems, and gradually it started to become acceptable.

There is still a lot more to do. But the good news is, these women have started to accept that sexual health is important and they now visit us openly. We see 600 women every year – that’s a huge deal. I’m also working on a campaign to encourage young fathers to get tested for HIV – it’s a routine test for pregnant women so we want men to do it, too, and welcome children into a safer world.’

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