Acceptance speech by Dr. Deqo Aden Mohamed (daughter of laureate Dr. Hawa Abdi Diblaawe.
Thank you to Roosevelt Foundation for this honourable award, I am grateful to receive the Medal from Want on behalf of my mother, Dr. Hawa Abdi, and share the courageous work that is happening in Somalia. She regrets that she cannot be with you today, but she is sending her love and best wishes.
The award is perfect to capture my mother’s work. She has dedicated her entire life to helping those around her. Before the war, she wanted to expand healthcare access to the rural population, especially mothers and children. Then, for 23 years of civil war, she gave the right and dignity to the most vulnerable to live their lives, through healthcare, education, food, clean water, and shelter. At the height of the civil war, there were over 90,000 people who found shelter on her land. She gave opportunities for women, men, and children, to be freed from the violence and clan divisions that torn the country apart, and a chance to live their own lives.
When I was a young girl, me and my sister would go around to help our mother deliver medications in rural villages. We stood by our mother’s side during the civil war, and we too followed in her footsteps to become doctors to help make a difference in the world, and show that women can be leaders too. Today, even though there is renewed hope with a new government, there is still a long way to go to rebuild Somalia, where 23 years of violence has destroyed even the fundamental meaning of peace in society.
That is why we continue our work today. I am carrying on my mother’s work through the Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation, running a village with a 400-bed hospital, school for girls and boys, a women’s education centre, and a sustainable farm using smart farming techniques. With these institutions, it is our vision to build socially and environmentally-conscious communities, so that the people of Somalia can stand up for themselves and be committed to sustain long-lasting peace in the country.
Dr Hawa Abdi Diblaawe was born in 1947 in Mogadishu. Her father was a worker in the city’s port and her mother died when she was very young. As the eldest child, Hawa was forced to raise her four sisters in conditions of poverty. But she never lost hope sight of her dreams.
“My father was an educated man,” she recalls, “He made sure I had the chance to become a doctor.”
With the help of a Soviet scholarship, Hawa studied medicine in Kiev and soon became Somalia’s first female gynecologist. She then completed a Law degree at the Somali National University in Mogadishu, where she later became an Assistant Professor of Medicine. She soon opened a clinic on her family’s ancestral land in the Afgooye Corridor, using the profits from her family land to provide free health care to all of her countrymen.
When the civil war began in 1991, Dr. Hawa started housing her employees on her land, feeding them and caring for them. Soon their friends and relatives came seeking shelter, then after the friends and relatives of their friends and relatives. Dr. Hawa welcomed them all, providing shelter to all those who came regardless of where they came from. In 2012, Dr. Hawa’s land housed more than 90,000 refugees, most of whom are women and children.
Today, Dr. Hawa Abdi continues to fight for the women, children and elderly people of the Hawa Abdi Village. With the help of her two amazing daughters, Deqo and Amina, both of whom are doctors who have followed in her footsteps, Dr. Hawa continues to keep a candle of light lit for the people of the Afgooye Corridor.
“My father made sure I had the chance to become a doctor”
Dr. Hawa has won numerous distinctions and awards, including the John Jay Justice Award, Vital Voices’ Women of the Year Award and a nomination for the Noble Peace Prize in 2012. U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called Dr Abdi “a perfect example of the kind of woman who inspires me”.
The Hawa Abdi Village
The Hawa Abdi Village has developed over the last twenty nine years as individuals have come to Doctor Hawa’s land in search of relief and shelter. There were 90,000 residents living in the Hawa Abdi Village in 2012, mainly consisting of women, children and the elderly.
The Hawa Abdi Village’s well boasts the only source of free fresh water in the region, and we are developing a ‘smart farming’ agriculture program aims to give Somalia a defense against famine and climate change. Our hospital boasts 300 beds and provides vaccinations, along with maternal and pediatric care, to everyone who comes to our doors. The Waqaf-Dhiblawe Primary School meanwhile seeks to lay the foundation for a new future by educating a new generation of Somali leaders.
What began as a simple camp for Internally Displaced Persons has developed into a vibrant community. Dr. Hawa is extremely pleased to have given so many Somalis a place to stay and hopes to see the Hawa Abdi Village continue to prosper.