Edna Adan

Edna Adan is featured in the second night of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.


Edna Adan is an inspiring advocate for women and girls, and her maternity hospital in Somaliland is an oasis of healing and care for the country's women.


Adan was raised in Somaliland in an educated and wealthy family, when the country was a protectorate of the British Empire. When she was 15, a girls' school opened in Somaliland. Adan went to work there as a student teacher and also received private lessons. She was permitted to sit for exams, in a room separate from the boys, and was the first Somali girl awarded one of a few coveted scholarships to study in Britain. She spent seven years there, studying nursing, midwifery and hospital management.

When she returned home to Somaliland, Adan became the first qualified nurse-midwife in the country and the first Somali woman to drive a car. She later became the first lady when she married Somaliland's prime minister, Ibrahim Egal. After they divorced, Adan was recruited to join the World Health Organization (WHO), where she held various key positions advocating for the abolition of harmful traditional practices, such as female genital cutting.

But Adan never let go of a life-long dream to build a hospital, so upon retiring from the WHO she sold all of her possessions, including her beloved Mercedes, and returned to Somaliland to make her dream a reality. There was only one available plot of land within the capital of Hargeisa, land which since the civil war had been used as a trash dump. But it was in the poor area of town, near those who needed the hospital the most. So she negotiated with the president, her ex-husband, and obtained the land for her hospital.

When the structure was completed but the roof not yet installed, the project ran out of money. But with assistance from the Friends of Edna's Hospital and in-kind donations from local merchants, Adan finished construction and the hospital opened in 2002. Since then, Adan has focused her efforts on a new goal: training and dispatching 1,000 qualified midwives throughout Somaliland. Adan continues to work as the hospital's director and strives to improve the lives and health of women throughout her country.


Want to help?

Pledge to volunteer with Edna at her maternity hospital in Somaliland where she and her fellow midwives have cut the maternal mortality rate of their patients to one-fourth of the national average. Work alongside this pioneering midwife as she aims to train 1,000 new midwifes to send out into communities across Somaliland. This position is for volunteers with medical experience only.

Alternatively, send this image to your friends with medical experience, and encourage them to take time to volunteer with Edna's staff in Somaliland. Or, if you'd like to help sponsor or fundraise for a friend to volunteer with Edna, share your pledge to support a friend who wants to take the trip.