“It is time for men to step up” says former Somaliland first lady

Edna Adan

Meet Edna Adan, a former first lady married to ex Somali president Mohammed Egal. At 76, she is also the first woman from Somaliland to study in the UK and the first qualified midwife in her country, as well as the first female foreign minister and one of the first in the world to speak out publicly about the horrors of Female Genital Mutilation. “The fight against FGM has been the biggest battle of my life,” she tells The Guardian, “and every moment of my life has been a battle.”

An alumni of London’s South Bank University, Adan had left Somaliland as a young woman to study nursing in the UK. When she returned to her hometown in the 60s, she was the only trained midwife in the country. She had to work for the government pro bono for 22 months before they could afford to pay her. “There just wasn’t a salary scale for a woman,” she says. “They could have paid me as a cleaner, but not as someone who ran the entire maternity department. I just refused to leave, refused to back down and eventually they paid me.”

With her life savings from her time at WHO as an expert on nursing, she achieved her lifelong dream of opening a maternity hospital in her home town of Hargeisa choosing to live in a modest flat above the hospital. She recruited 30 trainees who started their training before the hospital was opened. The hospital at the heart if Hargeisa now has two operating theatres, a laboratory and a training wing.

The staff include two female doctors who were originally recruited as nurses but through the support of Adan, they have progressed in their chosen careers, something she highlights as a proud moment. “They started on my nursing programme as 18-year-olds. I sponsored them through medical school and now they are looking after and healing the sick – nothing can beat that,” says Adan.

Adan is now focussed on advocacy to put an end to violence against women and girls. Though she has her reservations, Adan is happy that this issue which has been ongoing for years  is now making its way to the forefront of political and media agendas. She sees this as a battle for both men and women and insists  “Fathers must join this battle. This is happening to their daughters, their mothers. Women have suffered for long enough, it is time for men to play a greater role,” she says. “We need a worldwide movement to make this a central concern, so it is no longer confined to the borders of debate.”

In today’s Africa going into politics or marrying into politics for many is about what your country can do for you rather than what you actually have to offer it. The deals, connections, people abusing their positions, corruption is rife. Governments change staff without fulfilling any of the promises they made to get into office in the first place and too afraid to ask the right questions, the civil society continue to refuse to embrace their power. People like Edna Adan are very rare. It is refreshing to see someone, a woman, who will give everything she has for the betterment of her community. She is an inspiration and a reminder that we shouldn’t just talk about change. We must be about change. Edna Adan, GoWoman salutes you.

Source: The Guardian

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