Dr. Hawa Abdi paved the way for women leaders across the continent

The Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development (EJS Center) is saddened to hear of Dr. Hawa Abdi’s recent passing. A Somali doctor, human rights activist, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Dr. Abdi was an inspiring leader.

Dr. Abdi protected the lives of thousands of Somalis amid famine, war, and turmoil. During the Somali civil war in the 1990s, Dr. Adbi opened a camp on her family’s land to provide shelter, medical care, and education for tens of thousands of internally displaced people. The camp quickly grew to 90,000 residents, and a hospital and school were built to help serve the community.

She was one of Somalia’s first female gynecologists, and often treated women and girls from rural areas, helping to expand access to critical women’s health services.

Known for her fortitude, she stood up to an attempted takeover of her hospital in 2010 by militants. After taking Dr. Abdi and the hospital nurses hostage, the militants eventually rescinded control, and issued Dr. Abdi an apology letter.

There is a rich tradition of sisterhood among women leaders in Africa – when one of us leads, we all rise. The work that we are undertaking at the EJS Center is only possible because of women such as Dr. Abdi who have set the course. The impact of her legacy will be felt for decades, and at the EJS Center, we will continue to honor the transformative effect that her work has had across the African continent. 

Image credit to Vital Voices.

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