Dreams are worth the effort: How a nurse in Costa Rica is lifting up other ethnic minority women
21 March 2022
In 1991, Siannie Palmer Miller won a scholarship that transformed her life.
As the ninth and youngest daughter of Hazel Miller, an empirical midwife and community leader, and David Palmer, a tenant farmer and shipbuilder, Siannie grew up in the South Caribbean community of Puerto Viejo de Limón, Costa Rica.
Coming from a household where teenage women dropped out of school to start families didn't hold Siannie back.
“I always strived to be the best in my class and open doors through my academic performance, because in my mind that was the key to changing my reality”, she recalls.
Her parents provided a loving and supportive environment for her to flourish despite the economic limitations of their household.
“From my parents, I learned the value of honest work, service to others and the importance of helping those less fortunate”, she adds.
After finishing school, she went to college. Her academic performance enabled her to win the scholarship that changed her life forever.
Living abroad in the United States for almost a year turned Siannie into a confident and independent woman who yearned to see more people of African descent, like her, achieve their potential.
Boosting access to health care for minority populations
Throughout her life, Siannie has come to learn that the color of her skin, her gender, her ethnic origins and even the place where she was born and raised, could be used as reasons to discriminate against her.
Instead of letting it get under her skin, Siannie has chosen to actively work on creating a fairer and more prosperous society that ensures equal opportunities for all populations—especially for women from ethnic minority groups.
As an obstetrician-gynaecologist nurse, Siannie works at the Hone Creek Clinic in Limon province in eastern Costa Rica, on the shores of the Caribbean Sea.
For the last 15 years, Siannie has been working with underserved communities, including different indigenous populations, both Panamanian and Costa Rican.
On the third Wednesday of every month, she visits the community of La Palma in Sixaola, a border town near Panama, to tend to the sexual and reproductive health needs of the population, which includes indigenous Ngäbes women—many of whom do not have documentation to access social security.
As both a local and a member of a minority ethnic group, Siannie has a natural ability to connect with her patients at a deeper level.
“Serving women in this community is important because by improving their sexual and reproductive health, we change lives and save lives”, concludes Siannie, for whom empathy, gratitude and hard work are the keys to a fulfilling life.
The global effort to end racism and discrimination
Racism, intolerance and all related forms of discrimination still hinder progress for millions of people around the world.
Published online and in the form of a book, these stories portray people of African descent who are leaders in all walks of life and, in the words of UN Resident Coordinator in Costa Rica Allegra Baiocchi, “help make Costa Rica what it is today.”
This article draws on the previously published content by UN in Costa Rica and UNFPA. The adapted version was produced with the editorial support from the Development Coordination Office (DCO)’s editorial team, with special thanks to our colleagues from the UN team in Costa Rica.