Dr. Hawa Abdi (center), with her daughters, Dr. Deqo Mohamed (left) and Dr. Amina Mohamed (right). Note: This photo is incorrectly labeled on Glamour's web site, from which it was taken. The daughter's names are accurate here.
Last Saturday Minneapolis was visited by Hawa Abdi
, a great woman little known outside Somalia until she was named one of Glamour magazine's Women of the Year for 2010.
One of the first gynecologists in Somalia, Hawa Abdi has faced down Islamist militants who, upset that she was a woman doctor, a doctor for women, and most of all a woman in a leadership position, took her hostage. When aid arrived from the United Nations and others, the militants were forced to let her go, and she immediately went back to helping those in her charge.
In 1983 she started a one-room clinic for women on her family property outside Mogadishu. Then, when the government of Somalia collapsed in 1991, she began taking in those fleeing for their lives. Now she runs a displaced persons camp of some 90,000 people. Most of them can't pay for her services, but she helps them anyway. She is assisted in these efforts by her two daughters Deqo and Amina, who are also doctors.
Hawa Abdi came to Minneapolis on December 4 to receive an award for her efforts and raise money for her camp. She spoke at the Safari Center about the history of Somalia, how it was once called the "Lion of Africa" and had universities, but now it is dying. She appealed to Minneapolis' Somali community, the largest in the United States, to remember those back in their homeland, those who lacked the wealth or opportunity to emigrate.
I got to shake her hand and ask her for a message for my elementary students. She said to young Somalis, "Unite and remember your country." And to all young people, she said, "Peace is the most important thing."
I brought Hawa Abdi's story to two of my Somali ESL students, who were struggling in their mainstream class in which they were learning about powerful people like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Ghandi. Important as these people are, they identified in immediately with their fellow Somali, Hawa Abdi. I felt blessed to have had the opportunity to share this inspiration with them.
A video, PowerPoint
and abridged text
suitable for ESL students or children 3rd grade and above is available at my ESL education site, Engsplosion
. The video is also embedded below. Fearless Somali doctor stares down warlords
CBS News articleDr. Hawa & Her Daughters: The Saints of Somalia
Glamour articleTerrorists kidnap a hero
Daily Beast articleDoctor Hawa Abdi Foundation
web siteHeroic, female, and Muslim
NY Times articleUnder siege in Somalia, a doctor holds her ground
NY Times article