For my Rhet & Comp class, I had to read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. It’s a powerful book that discusses how the abuse towards women is the twenty-first century’s issue.
Of all the men and women who shared their stories in the book, my favorite was Edna Adan’s. Edna Adan is from Somaliland (now Somalia). If you are like me and didn’t exactly know where that was, it’s in the Horn of Africa.
Edna Adan was born to an elite family. Her father was the “father of medical care in the country” and her mother was the daughter of the post-master general. When Edna was eight years old, her mother cut off Edna’s private parts. This “ritual” is traditional to Somalian culture to curb a girl’s sexual desire when she gets older. Despite this tragedy, Edna had a fortunate life. She was the first girl to learn to read and write (she sat behind her brothers during their tutoring session) and was the first Somalian girl to go to Britain to study. She spent seven years in Great Britain studying nursing, mid-wifery, and hospital management. And it doesn’t end there! She became the first qualified nurse-wife of Somalia and became the first woman to drive. She was even the first lady of Somalia after marrying Ibrahim Egal, who became prime minister in 1967. She worked for the World Health Organization for a number of years, living a good life and traveling around the world. She became the top WHO official in the neighboring country of Djibouti and had a lovely office along with a Mercedes Benz. To some people, her life was essentially perfect.
To her, life was not perfect. She wasn’t satisfied by the nice office or the Mercedes (fully). She wanted to build a maternity hospital in her hometown. With her savings, $300k approximately; her sold Mercedes; and an empty lot located in the poorest part of town, she build the first maternity hospital in the country. The hospital holds top-trained nurses and doctors from around the world and from her university. Yes, Edna Adan also has a university.
Edna gave a lecture at St. Edward’s a few weeks back. She is a short 5″2 woman who is full of wit, charm and ambition. She called herself the “crazy old woman who wanted to build a hospital” when telling her story, which brought laughter to the room. She told us about her visit to the White House and how she felt scared in the presence of the 6″4 tall LBJ. She admitted to missing her Mercedes Benz and hated taking the bus sometimes but it was worth it if she was saving lives at her hospital.
Edna gave up all the materialistic luxuries life gave to her – a nice car, free trips around the world, money money money – for the sake of solving a cause bigger than her. It is one thing to give up material things. It is another thing to give it up and be happy about it. To her, helping a baby come to life is good enough for her. I very much admire that from her.
Our lifestyles are very different. I come from an average family – two sisters, mom and dad. She came from an elite family who had tutors and knew the top people in the government. Yet, we hold a burning flame in our hearts specifically for the sake of making people happy. Now our ways may be different – I write and she builds hospitals and universities – but as long as we are reaching out to people who need a little push, joy or inspiration, that good enough for us.
Edna, if you are reading this, thank you for being such a lovely, witty and optimistic woman. You are inspiration to the world.