This week’s blog is written by Alwin Puthenpurakal (@AlwinP13), a Senior Lecturer at London South Bank University (@LSBU; @LSBU_HSC).
Swahili is a widely spoken language. Over 200 million speakers across more than 14 countries (Lisanza, 2021). In 2021, the United Nations designated 7th of July as the World Kiswahili language day to celebrate Swahili as a language (UNESCO, 2021). Jabali means ‘strong and bold bond’ in Swahili and Jabali Men’s Network epitomises this strength with the wealth of knowledge and cultural vibrancy from male nurses from Africa, India and the Far East.
The birth of Jabali Men’s Network has humble beginnings. In 2019, whilst holding a senior role with NHS England, Patrick Nyarumbu MBE, observed in his work environment about the lack of representation of staff from a global majority background and particularly from a male nursing background. This observation prompted him to ask the question of ‘’Where are the BAME Men in Nursing?’’ in this institution. This question persisted in his mind despite attending various meetings with very senior NHS leaders and their responses echoing the feasibility of career progression in healthcare. Patrick focused particularly within the Nursing profession and pondered about his observations. With the active support from the Chief Nursing Officer of England and the WRES team, Patrick explored this further around how to support men from ethnic minority background into various Nursing leadership roles and how to support the wider communities to invite the conversations around a career in the NHS for male nurses from a global majority background.
To establish substance and clarity in his observations, Patrick tried to establish a list of BAME male nurses from 8C and above, who were aspiring to reach senior leadership roles. However, a record of this data to establish communication and conversation wasn’t easily accessible in his workplace. This opportunity encouraged Patrick to reach out to colleagues he knew within the NHS who were keen to support his momentum to establish an identity and support for aspiring BAME male nurses. In 2020, Patrick and his colleagues ventured to Skipton House (HQ of NHS England) to meet with the Chief Nursing Officer, Dame Ruth May to materialise plans and ideas of how to establish a network for colleagues from a global majority background and for male nurses who are aspiring to reach very senior roles in the NHS. A meeting that will shape the future for this young network of men.
At the time of writing this article, the strength of Jabali Men’s Network was approximately 100 members from various roles, organically grown through word of mouth through the achievements and brotherly support from the dozen founding members of the network. The power of collective social strength in a community of like-minded people to champion social good with defined purpose has always echoed throughout history. From Kappa Sigma fraternity (Malenic, 2020) to Freemasonry (Scanlan, 2014) to Mosuo (Mattison et al, 2023), the composition of like-minded people with defined ambitions and clear purpose for civic growth and development has been remarkable and had resonating effect in different levels of society throughout the centuries. Jabali Men’s Network stands out from the former examples for its unique vision and tangible purpose to drive social change and justice with the global majority through the inclusion of BAME cultures and professional representation, and the visible impact it provides to its members by means of brotherhood and mentorship to support and encourage male nurses into senior and very senior roles in their professions. The act of ‘pass it on’ strengthens the network’s architecture and help build a collaborative and supportive community where many contemporary and cultural topics are welcomed and discussed to promote and nourish understanding and holistic mutual growth. The latter assists new and aspiring members to rise up to the world’s stage to become leaders of the next generation. The rich representation of members from African, Asian, Caribbean, LGBTQ+ backgrounds and members representing from various disabilities makes the network a living and breathing example of an all-round inclusive collection of professionals focused on supporting and growing with each other by keeping the cultural heritage of the global south.
The original terms of reference with the support from senior executive members at NHS England, stills stand as the Magna Carta for Jabali Men’s Network. Championing WRES outcomes, influencing policy development with very senior NHS leaders and change makers, promoting equal opportunities, celebrating diversity, collaborating with wider organisations, supporting retention and developing BME talents in the nursing profession. Ambitions and hopes for the future for Jabali Men’s Network gravitates back every time to the terms of reference and enables the network to continuously align and stay rooted with the founding principles, driven by passion and purpose.
Jabali Men’s network looks towards a bright future navigating collaboratively with several organisations through the national and international challenges currently facing all aspects of healthcare and other industries. It aims to widen professional participation, continue to strengthen and encourage inclusive and supportive leadership and mentoring, support with accessibility to senior NHS leaders and boosting confidence among its members for their career growth and professional development. The Francis Adzinku Scholarship, in collaboration with the Florence Nightingale Foundation, is an example of one of many achievements, that was established in 2022 to echo the legacy of one of Jabali Men’s Network late founding members, who championed mental health nursing and mentoring clinicians.
Just like its ambitions, the name; Jabali, ‘the strong and bold bond’ took time to craft its identity since its inception, inviting scrutiny and discussions with members to drive for cultural representation, racial inclusivity, and a conscious averseness to not be labelled as yet another palatable and potentially monotonous ‘’BME group’’ in society. This tenacity and vigour differentiate Jabali Men’s Network from any other professional network in the UK and beyond. Leading change through effective, proactive, diverse and collaborative leadership from all angles with clear priorities has benefited many institutions and governments (Hargreaves and Harris, 2014; Hargreaves and Ainscow; 2015; Rock et al; 2016). This vibrant recipe of inclusivity and diversity from a global majority background remains the visible secret and strength of this strong and bold network.
Hargreaves, A. and Ainscow, M. (2015) “The top and bottom of leadership and change,” Phi Delta Kappan, 97(3), pp. 42–48. doi: 10.1177/0031721715614828.
Hargreaves, A., Boyle, A. and Harris, A. (2014) Uplifting leadership: How organizations, teams, and communities raise performance. London, England: Jossey-Bass. Available at: https://books.google.at/books?id=T2HBAwAAQBAJ.
Lisanza, V. (2021) Swahili gaining popularity globally, Africa Renewal. Available at: https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/december-2021/swahili-gaining-popularity-globally (Accessed: April 21, 2023).
Malenic, M. (2020) A brotherhood like no other, Kappa Sigma Fraternity. Available at: https://www.kappasigma.org/ (Accessed: April 21, 2023).
Mattison, S. M. et al. (2023) “Does gender structure social networks across domains of cooperation? An exploration of gendered networks among matrilineal and patrilineal Mosuo,” Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences, 378(1868), p. 20210436. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2021.0436.
Rock, D., Grant, H. and Grey, J. (2016) Diverse teams feel less comfortable — and that’s why they perform better, Harvard Business Review. Available at: http://www.purplebeach.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/HBR_diverseteamsfeellesscomfortable-2.pdf (Accessed: April 21, 2023).
Scanlan, M. D. J. (2014) “The origins of freemasonry: England,” in Handbook of Freemasonry. Leiden, Netherlands: BRILL, pp. 63–81.
UNESCO (2021) World Kiswahili Language Day, Unesco.org. Available at: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000379702 (Accessed: April 21, 2023).