DR HAWA ABDI
In celebration of Women’s History Month we highlight Dr. Hawa Abdi who is helping women in Somalia. Born in Mogadishu, Abdi came of age in an era when the seaside capital boasted thriving coffeehouses and ornate Italian-style mansions. Thanks to Somalia’s strategic importance in the Cold War, the economy boomed. Her father ran the city’s port. Her mother died when she was 12. As the eldest, she might have been forced to raise her siblings and take care of the house.
“But my father was an educated man,” she recalls. He ensured that she pursued her dream of becoming a doctor. Abdi received her medical training in Kiev, Ukraine, during the 1960s with the help of a Soviet scholarship.
At the time, Somalia was allied with the Soviet Union, while its archrival and neighbor Ethiopia was a partner of the United States. (In an abrupt Cold War reversal, a Marxist regime came to power in Ethiopia in 1974 and Somalian dictator Mohamed Siad Barre switched loyalties to the U.S.) After completing her studies, Abdi returned and opened her clinic; soon the practice drew clients from all over the country, and even abroad. She was one of Somalia’s first female gynecologists.