Hawa Abdi

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Hawa Abdi
حواء عبدي
Dr Hawa Abdi by Eunice Lau in her fim Through the Fire.png
in 2012
Born (1947-05-17) May 17, 1947 (age 71)
Alma materSomali National University
Occupationphysician, Obstetrician,activist

Hawa Abdi Dhiblawe[1] (Somali: Xaawo Cabdi, Arabic: حواء عبدي‎, born May 17, 1947) is a Somali human rights activist and physician. She is the founder and chairperson of the Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation (DHAF), a non-profit organization.

Early years[edit]

Abdi was born in Mogadishu, situated in south-central Somalia.[2] Her mother died when she was 12 years old. Abdi thereafter took on family chores, including raising her four sisters,[3] as the eldest child in the family. Her father was an educated professional.[4]

For her early schooling, Abdi attended local elementary, intermediate and secondary academies.[2]

In 1964, she received a scholarship from the Women's Committee of the Soviet Union. Abdi subsequently studied medicine at a Kiev institution, graduating in 1971. The following year, she began law studies at Mogadishu's Somali National University.[2]

She would practice medicine during the morning and work toward her law degree in her spare time, eventually earning it in 1979.[2]

Personal life[edit]

In the 1950s, Dr. Abdi got married to an older man. The short-lived planned marriage ended several years later, before she left Somalia for Moscow and then, Kiev. During her years in the USSR, she met Aden Mohammed, a fellow Somali student.

In 1973, Abdi got married to Aden and gave birth to her first child two years later.[5] Their kids were Deqo, Amina, and Ahmed. Ahmed died in a 2005 car crash in Hargeisa, while on a visit to his father who had since separated from Abdi. Both Deqo and Amina are now doctors.

Aden died later in a hospital in Kuala Lumpar while receiving treatment for hepatitis.


Rural Health Development Organization[edit]

In 1983, Abdi opened the Rural Health Development Organization (RHDO) on family-owned land in the southern Lower Shebelle region. It began as a one-room clinic offering free obstetrician services to around 24 rural women per day, and later evolved into a 400-bed hospital.[2]

When the civil war broke out in Somalia during the early 1990s, Abdi stayed behind at the behest of her grandmother, who had advised her to use her qualifications to assist the vulnerable. She subsequently established a new clinic and school for the displaced and orphans.[2]

The RHDO was renamed the Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation (DHAF) in 2007.[2] It gradually expanded to include a relief camp, which during the 2011 drought housed 90,000 people on the 1,300 acres surrounding Abdi's hospital.[2][6]

Two years prior, at the height of the Islamist insurgency in southern Somalia, militants had laid siege to the compound and attempted to force Abdi to shut it down. She stood her ground and the rebels left within a week, following pressure from local residents, the UN and other advocacy groups.[2][7] The militants again stormed the area in February 2012, leading Abdi to temporarily suspend services until their eventual departure.[2]

Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation[edit]

Hawa Abdi Center C

The Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation (DHAF) is run by Abdi and her two physician daughters, CEO Deqo Adan (also known as Deqo Mohamed) and assistant Adan (also known as Amina Mohamed),[2] who followed in their mother's footsteps as ob/gyn specialists.[4] As of 2012, the organization has a multinational staff of 102 workers, augmented by a 150-member team comprising volunteers, fishermen and farmers.[2]

DHAF is a non-political organization that is not affiliated with any government, political movement, religion or clan. DHAF decides what projects to undertake and what relief to provide based on the ground needs of the village.DHAF is also a financially independent organization. All of the funding is provided through donations from the people around the world and other charitable endowments. Government funding is prohibited. Since 1991, DHAF has provided services to Somalis who are independent of their clan. Services are provided to the people of Somalia at no cost.[3]

The DHAF compound includes a hospital, school and nutritional center,[2] and provides shelter, water and medical care to mostly women and children.[7][8] Since its establishment in the early 1980s, the complex has served an estimated 2 million people.[2]

Although services are offered at no charge, Abdi operates several fishing and agricultural projects within the compound to inculcate self-sustenance. The hospital also contains a small plot of land, where vegetables and maize are grown and later in part sold to cover some of the facility's maintenance costs.[8]

Funding for the compound's equipment and medical supplies is mainly secured through remittances from Somali expatriates as well as general contributions to the DHAF.[2][8] Since 2011, the organization has also received support from the Women in the World Foundation.[9]


In 2014, Abdi received the Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award: Freedom from Want in Middelburg, the Netherlands.

In 2007, Abdi was named Hiiraan Online's Person of the Year.[10] Glamour magazine later named her and her two daughters among its 2010 "Women of the Year".[11]

In 2012, Abdi was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.[12] She also received the Women of Impact Award from the WITW Foundation,[9] BET's Social Humanitarian Award,[13] and the John Jay Medal for Justice.[14]

On May 25, 2017, Abdi received the honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard University.[15]


  • Keeping Hope Alive: How One Somali Woman Changed 90,000 lives (2013)


  1. ^ Abdi, H.; Jacobsen, S.D. (17 August 2013). "Dr. Hawa Abdi, M.D.: Physician & Human Rights Activist, Hawa Abdi Foundation". In-Sight (3.A): 21–29.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Dr. Hawa Abdi: Somalia is my Golden Jubilee". Sabahi. 22 March 2012. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Dr. Hawa Abdi". 4 April 2018. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  4. ^ a b Hassan (Xiis), Salad Idow (10 January 2008). "Dr. Hawa Abdi – 2007 HOL Person of the Year". Hiiraan Online. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  5. ^ 1947-, Hawa Abdi, (2013). Keeping hope alive : one woman: 90,000 lives changed. Robbins, Sarah J. (1st ed.). New York, NY: Grand Central Pub. ISBN 9781455503766. OCLC 806015186.
  6. ^ Kristof, Nicholas D. (15 December 2010). "Heroic, Female and Muslim". New York Times. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  7. ^ a b Griswold, Eliza. "Dr. Hawa Abdi & Her Daughters: The Saints of Somalia". Glamour. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  8. ^ a b c Ali, Laila (23 August 2011). "The doctor undaunted by Somalia's insurgents". Guardian. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  9. ^ a b Robbins, Sarah J. "Dr. Hawa Abdi Receives Women of Impact Award From WITW Foundation". Women in the World. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  10. ^ "Dr. Hawa Abdi - 2007 HOL Person of the Year". www.hiiraan.com. Retrieved 2017-10-25.
  11. ^ Glamour magazine's report on Dr. Abdi and her daughters
  12. ^ Dr. Hawa Abdi nominated for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize Archived 2012-10-14 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Dr. Hawa Abdi". BET. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  14. ^ "John Jay Justice Awards Ceremony". John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  15. ^ "Harvard awards 10 honorary degrees at 366th Commencement". Harvard Gazette. 2017-05-25. Retrieved 2017-10-25.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]