Dr. Hawa Abdi was born on May 17th, 1947 in Mogadiscio, Somalia. At the age of 12, she lost her mother to gynecological complications, and, as the oldest of five, she took over the responsibility of raising her younger siblings. However, she was able to continue her schooling, thanks to her father’s support and encouragement. She remarks, “He made sure I had the chance to become a doctor.”
In 1964, Abdi moved to Kiev, in the Soviet Union, to study medicine, after having received a scholarship from the Women’s Committee of the Soviet Union. She worked diligently and received her degree in 1971, before returning to Somali to pursue a Law degree at the Somali National University in Mogadishu.
She continued practicing medicine while working towards her Law degree, and soon after, in 1983, she opened the Rural Health Development Organisation (RHDO) on her family’s land, to provide free healthcare to all those who needed it.
Her clinic began to grow, and even facing civil war, which began in 1991, Dr. Abdi stood her ground. She stayed on her land and began providing shelter and healthcare to refugees seeking a safehaven from around the country. The land soon became known as the Hawa Abdi Village and grew, not only in number of residents, but also in activities. In 2012, more than 90,000 people had come seeking help, the majority of which were women and children.
Dr. Hawa Abdi, along with her two daughters, continue to run the Hawa Abdi Village, which includes a school, access to fresh water, and a 400-bed hospital, which provides vaccinations, maternal and pediatric care for all those in need.
Her efforts have been recognized around the world and she has received numerous distinctions, including the John Jay Justice Award, and a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2012. In 2013, she compiled her experiences in a book, Keeping Hope Alive: One Woman, 90,000 Lives Changed. Dr. Hawa Abdi has also create a Foundation which deals with Healthcare - Agriculture - Wash and Education.
DiscovHER is proud to honor such a strong woman and leader in her country. What other women scientists should we recognize? Let us know @4womeninscience