Mrs Christiana Virginia Koripamo (1910-2015)

In her early days as a midwife in Kaiama, she took the delivery cases of Major Isaac Adaka Boro and Capt. George Amangala (two revolutionary heroes who laid down their lives in the Nigerian Civil War to liberate Rivers State).

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Professional Nurse/Midwife, Girl-Child Advocate

Mrs Christiana Virginia Koripamo (nee Kemmer Fetepigi) was a famous Nurse/Midwife in the 1930s and 1980s who must have delivered over a 1000 babies. She was also an avid advocate for the rights of female gender in the Niger Delta and beyond.

Synopsis

Mrs Christiana Virginia Koripamo (1910-2015), “Mama” as fondly called was a professional birth attendant in the then Eastern Nigeria (later old Rivers State). Mama established and administered the renowned Irigha Maternity Home in the early 1970s and 1990s. Her services were sought after and appreciated by all strata of Port Harcourt society and beyond. Mama also had a stint for girl-child advocacy. She was a staunch Anglican (St Cyprian’s Anglican Church, Hospital Road) and was graced with long life by her creator. Mama was 104 years when she died.

When and where was she born?

Christiana Virginia Ayibamieirigha Koripamo (nee Kemmer Fetepigi), was born on 26 December, 1910 at Kaiama, in Kolokuma clan Eastern Nigeria (now Bayelsa State).

Family and early life

Christiana Virginia Ayibamieirigha Koripamo’s father was Mr Jacob Fetepigi Amaran of Kaiama, Kolokuma clan and her mother was Timiebi Kemmer of Twon-Brass all in Bayelsa State. She was a granddaughter of the famous King Amaran Odi, the Odo of Kaiama who saved the Lander Brothers during one of their expeditions in the Niger Delta.

She was born a twin, and in those dark days of ignorance laced with superstition, twin births were a taboo in Izon land as in most rural communities in the country (Nigeria). After their birth, her mother took shelter with Rev. Mark Lele in the Mission House to avoid the taunts and spite of the natives. Unfortunately, Mama lost her twin sister in infancy. She was however destined to save lives in her chosen profession.

Education

Mama attended St. Barnabas School, Twon-Brass between 1919 and 1928 where she studied from Infant Class I to Standard IV and excelled in her studies. Her guardian, Rev. Mark Lele moved her to St. Monica’s Girls School, Ogbunike, Anambra State where she completed her primary education in 1930.

In addition to academics, the St. Monica’s Girls School programme included preparatory training for marital life. Home Management therefore occupied a major plank of the courses taught. Mama picked up needlework, sewing, cookery, laundry and confectionery during her time there. She later added baking. These acquired inputs gave her an economic base to support her husband in their quest for a better life.

Mama also got trained at the reputable Iyi-Enu Anglican Mission Hospital from 1931 to 1933, to qualify as a nurse/midwife. At its inception, the School of Midwifery had only five girls in enrolment. The two expatriate female doctors were: Dr Batley and Dr Rosereare, and four expatriate nursing Sisters were: Pronger, Hill, Halls and Holbrook, infused in the students all that discipline, honesty, humility and service connote. These tenets of the institution could not be compromised. Mama says that the training was rigorous and that they “did elephant’s work for ants’ pay”. At Iyi-Enu, Mama kept up her academic excellence and had the pride of place as number one in the National Midwives Board Register.

Mrs Christiana Virginia Koripamo’s Career

Immediately after qualifying as a midwife, she was posted to Kaiama to open a maternity home. She ran the maternity from 1933 until 1936. In her early days as a midwife in Kaiama, she took the delivery cases of Major Isaac Adaka Boro and Capt. George Amangala (two revolutionary heroes who laid down their lives in the Nigerian Civil War to liberate Rivers State). Her few years of dedicated service showed that a solid foundation in the reduction of maternal and infant mortality had been laid. She worked relentlessly to breakdown the old beliefs of female circumcision and twin babies. Her tenure was short but by the time she left, a new dawn had taken over the Dark Age.

Mama’s Husband and children

Christiana was married to her long-time friend Rowland James Erasmus Koripamo on 9 January 1937, the union went on to have six children. In 55 years of marriage, she was Rowland James Erasmus Koripamo’s number one Public Relations Manager in his family, community and political life. She supported him through his life as a businessman, an administrator, a politician, and most importantly, a father. He described her as his “Rock of Gibraltar” – impregnable, immoveable, and resilient.

Irigha Maternity Home

In 1972, at the age of 61, when most people are retiring from their active career lives, Mama, with the support of her husband, opened Irigha Maternity Home at No. 1 Ndoki Street in Port Harcourt. The Maternity was open for over twenty years and her services were sought after and appreciated by all strata of Port Harcourt society.

This chapter was a monumental exhibition of Mama’s over sixty-year devotion and dedication to the nursing profession. Through the Maternity, Mama actively advocated against issues such as female genital mutilation, preference of male children over female, teenage pregnancy, and domestic abuse; and promoted education for the girl-child, family planning, and the health policies of the Nigeria at the time.

In 1996, She retired at the age of 86.

Mrs Christiana Virginia Koripamo’s honours

  • 2005 – National Merit Award – Member of the Order of the Niger (MON)
  • 2005 – Life Member of the National Council of Women’s Societies
  • 2006 – Bayelsa Women of Distinction Award
  • 2007 – C. V. Koripamo School of Midwifery, Iyi-Enu Mission Hospital

When did Mama die?

Mrs Christiana Virginia Koripamo died on 15 February, 2015 at the age of 104. She reportedly died of natural causes. Mama was buried in Kaiama town, Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area, Bayelsa state on 14 March, 2015 by the Anglican Communion.

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