Edna Adan Ismail — who pioneered women’s rights and healthcare organizations in her homeland of Somaliland, Eastern Africa — will speak on campus tonight about her struggle and accomplishments.
The former prime minister of Somaliland, an unrecognized state internationally accepted as an autonomous region of Somalia, Ismail is credited with a number of impressive firsts in her country: She was the first trained as a nurse-midwife, the first woman to get a driver’s license and founder of the first non-profit maternity hospital in Somaliland. Additionally, Ismail has served as a World Health Organization officer in a number of capacities.
Held in Campbell Hall tonight at 7, the event will showcase many of Ismail’s efforts to improve access to healthcare for women and children in Western Africa. In addition to founding the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital, Ismail is known for her dedication to training midwives as well as ending female genital mutilation.
Goleta-based nonprofit organization Direct Relief International has donated more than $1 million to Ismail’s initiative, providing both medical supplies and manpower. The company’s CEO, Thomas Tighe, said it is important to inform the UC Santa Barbara campus about the issues Ismail has, and continues, to face.
“Issues of poverty and development are of keen interest to a lot of students and this takes it down to a real, practical level,” Tighe said. “She shows you can really make a difference in reversing dire statistics.”
According to Brett Williams, DRI’s director of International Programs, Ismail’s sustained dedication to women’s rights is particularly inspiring.
“What makes the situation really unique is she was very connected and did not need to go back to Somaliland and do what she did,” Williams said. “She spent her W.H.O. salary and entire life savings on [the hospital]. I really am in awe of what she does. She didn’t have to go back, she could have taken any other road… and she went back.”
Kristi Bullock, a program officer at DRI, said Ismail illustrates the impact individuals can have on the world.
“Edna is a world leader with a distinguished set of accomplishments,” Bullock said. “One person can really make a difference, and she’s done that. It’s a unique opportunity for people in Santa Barbara to get to see someone who lives these issues.”
Fourth-year history major Matt Fibiger said Ismail’s lecture can bring important global issues to the forefront of campus discussion.
“It seems so obvious that there are all sorts of problems with women’s health, but it seems to be often swept under the rug,” Fibiger said. “It’s an opportunity for people to be educated on something that’s not often talked about. It brings a detachment from the abstract world of scholarship to a concrete world of change.”