Activism Now: An Indian medic’s fight for justice in UK
In September, Northampton-based medic Meenal Viz became the face of activism for the cover of ‘Vogue’ magazine in the UK in recognition of her relentless campaign for access to adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for fellow National Health Service (NHS) doctors and healthcare workers fighting on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 27-year-old Clinical Fellow in Medicine, training to become a Consultant Physician, staged protests outside 10 Downing Street in London even during the weeks she was heavily pregnant with her daughter Radhika – now a couple of months old. Dr Viz and her husband, Dr Nishant Joshi, are carrying on with their campaign and have filed for a judicial review in the High Court in London.
Here for ‘iGlobal’, Dr Viz reflects on her fight for justice, sharing the same space as some of her heroes as an Indian-origin activist and hopes for her daughter to be able to grow up in a safer world.
During the pandemic, I was heavily pregnant when a heavily pregnant nurse died of Covid in the very same hospital where she was treating patients. The whole situation was avoidable.
Throughout March, myself and many other colleagues across the country warned hospitals and the government that if nobody took care of us, there would be nobody to protect the public.
We started to see healthcare workers die and my biggest fear was that this would become the new normal. I felt that a line had to be drawn. Something had to be done and I couldn’t sit back and watch families lose their loved ones, it just broke my heart.
Doctors and nurses were dying and they were left without a voice, somebody had to stand up for them.
Despite escalating my concerns in my own hospital, with my own bosses, I wasn’t being heard. I never planned to protest, but it was my last resort. I felt I had nowhere else to go. I escalated my concerns as far as I could.
The lack of protection for healthcare workers was a national issue and it demanded national recognition. It was a national scandal that disproportionately affected ethnic minority backgrounds – a situation that could have been avoided.
To be on the same cover as my own heroes is an incredible honour. I’ve been following the work of [actor-activist] Riz Ahmed, [American political activist] Angela Davis, and [diversity campaigner] Jane Elliot for years. Their words have given me a lot of confidence to go on a bigger stage and make my voice heard.
A lot of people think of my fight is based on PPE, which it is. But fundamentally, it is about seeking justice. I could not stand and simply observe and do nothing during this time and this is the message I wanted to get across. And this is the message Edward Enninful, Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue, wanted to get across.
I am grateful for the opportunity to be featured on such an esteemed platform as a South Asian woman. I hope to make my community proud and encourage more women to use their voices to speak up and fight for the truth. Enninful has used his platform as Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue to lift others up, and I hope I can do the same moving forward.
My daughter Radhika will look back at this time and feel proud that her mother wasn’t afraid to speak up. I hope I can pass the baton onto her and create a world where the truth wins.
by Meenal Viz