Edna Adan Ismail’s Interview with Kirsty Young of BBC Radio 4

Edna is interviewed by Kirsty Young for Desert Island Discs – a radio program broadcast on BBC Radio 4

Edna Adan Ismail is a midwife and campaigner. As a 12-year-old growing up in British Somaliland, her dream was to build her own hospital. It took her some 50 years and all her savings to realise her ambition, and the state of the art hospital she built is a testament to her passion and dogged determination.

Nursing and midwifery have been her life since she won a scholarship to study in the UK in the mid-1950s, when she cycled to appointments in her black raincoat to deliver babies all around London. Married at one time to the prime minister of Somalia, she juggled the high profile role of First Lady with shifts at her local hospital. “I was born with this desire to fix things,” she says.

As her country’s first female foreign minister, she broke deep-rooted taboos by publicly condemning the widespread practice of female genital mutilation – FGM. Her opposition stems from personal experience – she was only eight years old when she endured the invasive procedure herself.

Now 80, she lives on site at her beloved hospital, where more than 22,000 babies have been born since it opened in 2002.


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