Keeping Hope Alive is the incredible memoir of Dr. Hawa Abdi, a Somalian woman who has devoted her life to bringing about change for the Somalian people.
Dr. Abdi, or “Mama Hawa” as many in Somalia call her, has had an extraordinary life. As a young girl, she underwent female genital mutilation and a marriage to a much older man when she was twelve. As a woman, she has constantly been told by her society that she is not able to do what men can. But she has ignored them, going to Ukraine to study medicine and becoming the first female gynecologist in Somalia. She became a lawyer so that she could take control of her own finances and her family’s property. With her own money, she supported her entire family and extended family on land that she bought and plowed herself.
In 1991 the Somalian government crashed. War broke out between several tribes and warlords. Thousands of Somalian people were displaced and ended up finding a home on Mama Hawa’s farm, where she opened a clinic and began taking care of the wounded people. She healed the sick regardless of what tribe they were from—a radical move in Somalia. Since then, over 90,000 people have come to find shelter at Dr. Abdi’s farm.
Hearing all of this, you might think that Dr. Abdi is a woman of supernatural strength and perseverance. But she is a woman like me, and like you. She has borne children and seen two of them die. She has been betrayed by her husband. She has gone out of her way to care for her sisters when they made poor decisions. She herself has made bad decisions. But what makes her remarkable is her refusal to give up; she continues to fight for peace in Somalia, refusing to pick sides in a war that seems insurmountable. She will not turn away anyone who needs help.
I had no idea that all of this has been going on. It’s 2013, and Somalia has been entrenched in civil war for 22 years. Millions have died. And women are still thought of as nothing in that culture. Praise God for Dr. Hawa for not just making a difference, but for proving that a society is better when its women are involved. I pray that we all might be more like Dr. Hawa, simply choosing to love and refusing to give up doing what we know is right.
You can learn more about the Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation and how to help here.