Edna Adan Ismail

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Edna Adan Ismail with a class of nursing school graduates at Edna Adan Maternity Hospital.

Edna Adan Ismail (Somali: Edna Aadan Ismaaciil or Adna Aadan Ismaaciil) (born September 8, 1937) was Foreign Minister of Somaliland[1] from 2003 to 2006, and had previously served as Somaliland's Minister of Family Welfare and Social Development.

She is the director and founder of the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital in Hargeisa and an activist and pioneer in the struggle for the abolition of female genital mutilation. She is also President of the Organization for Victims of Torture.[2]

She was married to Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal who was Head of Government in British Somaliland five days prior to Somalia's independence and later the Prime Minister of Somalia (1967–69) and President of Somaliland (1993–2002).

Early life[edit]

Edna Adan was born in Hargeisa, British Somaliland on September 8, 1937,[3] the daughter of a prominent Somali medical doctor[4] and was trained as a nurse and midwife in the United Kingdom at the Borough Polytechnic, now London South Bank University, where she is said to be "the first Somali girl" to study in Britain.[5]

Other claims by Ismail include that she was Somalia's first qualified nurse-midwife[5][6] and the first Somali woman to drive.[5] She later married Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal, a Somali politician who was elected Prime Minister of Somalia in 1967.

Hospital work[edit]

She returned to Somaliland and built from scratch a maternity hospital, which she continues to run. The Edna Adan Maternity Hospital officially opened on March 9, 2002, in land donated to her by the regional government at a site formerly used as a garbage dump.

The region lacked trained nurses to staff the hospital[7] – as most had either fled the country or been killed during the civil war – and so Edna recruited more than 30 candidates and began training them in 2000 while the hospital was still under construction. The hospital now has two operating theatres, laboratory, library, computer center and a complete wing dedicated to training nurses and midwives..

The mission of the Edna Adan Hospital is to help to improve the health of the local inhabitants, in particular the high rate of maternal and infant mortality. The facility is a non-profit making charity and a midwifery teaching hospital that is also undertaking the training of student nurses and Assistant Laboratory Technicians.

Charity work[edit]

Edna Adan's work is supported by charities in the USA and UK which help her raise support and awareness to train additional midwives and fight FGM in Somaliland. [8] [9]

Government work[edit]

Edna Adan Ismail was the only woman minister in the Somaliland government until July 2006, when she was replaced as Foreign Minister by former Minister of Information and National Guidance Abdillahi Mohamed Dualeh.In addition to her work in government, she continues to be a voice for the secession movement taking place in Somaliland. This voice is also echoed by many others in government and is shared by many in the region apart from some in the eastern most, Sool and Ayn regions.

Awards and recognition[edit]

In recognition of her lifelong contribution to Humanitarian work, the name of Edna Adan Ismail was added to the Medical Mission Hall of Fame,[10] University of Toledo, Ohio, in March 2007. She has an Honorary Doctoral Degree from Clark University in Massachusetts and was made an Honorary Fellow of Cardiff University School of Nursing in Wales on July 8, 2008. In 2018, she was granted an Honorary Fellowship by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

In 2012 Edna Adan was featured in the documentary Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, premiering on PBS October 1 and 2. The series introduces women and girls living under very difficult circumstances and bravely fighting to challenge them. The Half the Sky PBS TV series is produced by Show of Force along with Fugitive Films. She was the "castaway" in the long-running series Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4 on October 22, 2017.[11]

She has been called "The Muslim Mother Teresa" by Kate Grant, CEO of the Fistula Foundation.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gettleman, Jeffrey (June 2, 2009). "No Winner Seen in Somalia's Battle With Chaos". The New York Times. Retrieved December 10, 2014. 
  2. ^ Topping, Alexandra (June 23, 2014). "Somaliland's leading lady for women's rights: 'It is time for men to step up'". The Guardian. 
  3. ^ Skaine, Rosemary (2008). Women Political Leaders in Africa. McFarlane. p. 54. ISBN 9780786432998. 
  4. ^ "125th Anniversary - Get Involved - My Cardiff". Cf.ac.uk. Retrieved December 10, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c Kristof, Nicholas D.; Sheryl WuDunn (2010). Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Vintage Books. pp. 124–. ISBN 978-0-307-38709-7. 
  6. ^ Somali Maternity Care Archived November 14, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ "Partner Spotlight: Edna Adan University Hospital, Somaliland". Direct Relief. 
  8. ^ http://ednahospitalfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Press-Release-EAHF-October-221.pdf
  9. ^ Carson, Mary (2016-12-12). "Edna Adan: 'With my army of midwives, fewer girls will go through FGM'". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-05-23. 
  10. ^ "Working together to rebuild health care in post-conflict Somaliland". The Lancet. 368: 1119–1125. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(06)69047-8. Retrieved December 10, 2014. 
  11. ^ Edna Adan Ismail’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ appearance
  12. ^ Kate Grant (October 1, 2012). "The Muslim Mother Theresa". The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 1, 2012. 

External links[edit]