United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) has published to her web site, Off The Sidelines, a page of Questions and Answers, questions from her Book Club members addressed to Edna Adan.
The goal of Sen. Gillibrand’s group is to make more women aware of the need to be involved in the decisions that affect their lives every day and to let women know that their voice matters, to give them the resources to start to get more involved and tell the inspiring stories of women who already are. She says, “I’m so proud that today, for International Women’s Day, Edna Adan has agreed to answer some of our book club members’ questions, which we’ve posted at Off The Sidelines here.”
Edna discusses how she decided, at the age of 11 or 12, to study nursing and how she broke a taboo by speaking out against Female Genital Mutilation. Describing what has contributed to making her successful in her endeavors, Edna cites her “rebellious character and the courage to speak out against what I find to be unjust.”
She also discusses in some considerable detail what the hospital is looking for in the way of Volunteers and the process that leads to their being accepted.
Thankfully, we do not have in Somaliland all of the atrocities mentioned in “Half The Sky” but whatever atrocities exist in a community should be stamped out. The one that exists and persists in my community is female genital mutilation or female circumcision. I rebelled against it first because it has affected me personally, and secondly because I am a midwife and in my profession, I see on a daily basis how women’s bodies are damaged by this practice. I guess I just reached a point in my life when I couldn’t take it anymore and I just kind of exploded. I have been fighting against the practice ever since. [more]
The Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles has published an account of Edna’s visit there in late November, including an interview. Edna discusses the challenges she faced in building the hospital and talks about her work now.
“I try to give women in my community an opportunity. They are my army, my soldiers.”
A portion of the article appears below. Please click through to the complete article.
When Edna Adan Ismail, founder of the pioneering Edna Adan University Hospital in Somaliland, walked into Women Hold Up Half the Sky a few weeks ago, she exclaimed to the crowd of visitors who had gathered to see her, “I am very emotional by the way, so if I get emotional, bear with me.” She walked through the gallery, half a world away from her home in Hargeisa, and took in the stories and images of her life on display. Edna did get emotional. And impassioned. And I did, too.
As I learned in chapter seven of Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, one woman dies from childbirth every minute somewhere in the world. The personal narratives they share in the book put a face to that statistic, making every heartbreaking word worth the read.
In a country like Somaliland, Kristof and WuDunn write that there are four main factors that account for such grim maternal mortality: biology, lack of schooling, lack of rural health systems, and disregard for women. This only makes it that much more impressive that against all odds Edna learned to read and write even when there were no schools for girls; was the first Somali girl to earn a scholarship to study abroad in Britain; trained to become the first qualified nurse-midwife; served as First Lady of Somalia while her husband served as Prime Minister; had a career at the World Health Organization; held the position of Foreign Minister of Somaliland; and finally reached her lifelong goal of founding and administering a hospital. Being in her presence is inspiring, and I feel proud to know that she is out there fighting for every woman’s right to good health care and education.
Edna was invited to Geneva three weeks ago to address a TEDx conference where she spoke about Somaliland and the building of the Edna Hospital.
She described how important is the training of midwives to the goal of reducing high rates of maternal and infant mortality.
If Edna, beginning at the age of 60, in a war-ravaged and unrecognized country can accomplish her goal to build a hospital and use it to train midwives then anybody with determination can do the same elsewhere.
Edna’s goal is to train 1000 midwives and return them to their communities. Watch the video below:
If an elderly woman can build a hospital, everyone has the potential to move humanitarian mountains if they put their mind to it, says Edna Adan Ismail.
“We’ll be ten years old in March and it’s given life to an entire country. Every midwife in Somaliland has had to do a refresher course with us. We’ve developed a nursing training curriculum which is used nationally and a midwife training programme which has been replicated and used in neighbouring Somalia. It’s become a curiosity; people want to come and see what an old woman has done.”
Edna Adan at TEDx Geneva / photo by Marko Kokic, ICRC
Edna Adan will give a presentation at the upcoming TED conference in Geneva about her work in service to the women of Somaliland.
She will discuss how she came home to Hargeisa in 1997 from a career at the World Health Organization to find Somaliland’s health care system in ruins. “The ten year Civil war from 1982 to 1991 caused the death of a quarter million of our people and destroyed 95% of the country including schools and hospitals.” And so she decided to build a hospital using her own life savings and her pension.
With our limited resources, we know that country-wide coverage with doctors and graduate midwives will not be possible for a long time which is why we have chosen a low-tech, low-cost and time-effective solution: To train as many Community Midwives as we can, and train them now as a priority!
Edna’s message is, “If Somaliland which is among the least developed countries in Africa can do it, anybody can!”
The live webcast takes place from 4-6pm Geneva time on Sunday 27 November. Remember to watch.
If you’ve never before seen a TED video, then go to their web site www.TED.com and pick any video at random. They’re all very brief and they are all treasures. Edna feels honored to have been chosen for inclusion among such luminaries.