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Mother and daughter doctor-heroes: Hawa Abdi + Deqo Mohamed

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Hawa Abdi: Many people -- 20 years for Somalia -- [were] fighting. So there was no job, no food. Children, most of them, became very malnourished, like this. Deqo Mohamed: So as you know, always in a civil war, the ones affected most [are] the women and children. So our patients are women and children. And they are in our backyard. It's our home. We welcome them. That's the camp that we have in now 90,000 people, where 75 percent of them are women and children. Pat Mitchell: And this is your hospital. This is the inside. HA: We are doing C-sections and different operations because people need some help. There is no government to protect them. DM: Every morning we have about 400 patients, maybe more or less. But sometimes we are only five doctors and 16 nurses, and we are physically getting exhausted to see all of them. But we take the severe ones, and we reschedule the other ones the next day. It is very tough. And as you can see, it's the women who are carrying the children; it's the women who come into the hospitals; it's the women [are] building the houses. That's their house. And we have a school. This is our bright -- we opened [in the] last two years [an] elementary school where we have 850 children, and the majority are women and girls. (Applause) PM: And the doctors have some very big rules about who can get treated at the clinic. Would you explain the rules for admission? HA: The people who are coming to us, we are welcoming. We are sharing with them whatever we have. But there are only two rules. First rule: there is no clan distinguished and political division in Somali society. [Whomever] makes those things we throw out. The second: no man can beat his wife. If he beat, we will put [him] in jail, and we will call the eldest people. Until they identify this case, we'll never release him. That's our two rules. (Applause) The other thing that I have realized, that the woman is the most strong person all over the world. Because the last 20 years, the Somali woman has stood up. They were the leaders, and we are the leaders of our community and the hope of our future generations. We are not just the helpless and the victims of the civil war. We can reconcile. We can do everything. (Applause) DM: As my mother said, we are the future hope, and the men are only killing in Somalia. So we came up with these two rules. In a camp with 90,000 people, you have to come up with some rules or there is going to be some fights. So there is no clan division, and no man can beat his wife. And we have a little storage room where we converted a jail. So if you beat your wife, you're going to be there. (Applause) So empowering the women and giving the opportunity -- we are there for them. They are not alone for this. PM: You're running a medical clinic. It brought much, much needed medical care to people who wouldn't get it. You're also running a civil society. You've created your own rules, in which women and children are getting a different sense of security. Talk to me about your decision, Dr. Abdi, and your decision, Dr. Mohamed, to work together -- for you to become a doctor and to work with your mother in these circumstances. HA: My age -- because I was born in 1947 -- we were having, at that time, government, law and order. But one day, I went to the hospital -- my mother was sick -- and I saw the hospital, how they [were] treating the doctors, how they [are] committed to help the sick people. I admired them, and I decided to become a doctor. My mother died, unfortunately, when I was 12 years [old]. Then my father allowed me to proceed [with] my hope. My mother died in [a] gynecology complication, so I decided to become a gynecology specialist. That's why I became a doctor. So Dr. Deqo has to explain. DM: For me, my mother was preparing [me] when I was a child to become a doctor, but I really didn't want to. Maybe I should become an historian, or maybe a reporter. I loved it, but it didn't work. When the war broke out -- civil war -- I saw how my mother was helping and how she really needed the help, and how the care is essential to the woman to be a woman doctor in Somalia and help the women and children. And I thought, maybe I can be a reporter and doctor gynecologist. (Laughter) So I went to Russia, and my mother also, [during the] time of [the] Soviet Union. So some of our character, maybe we will come with a strong Soviet background of training. So that's how I decided [to do] the same. My sister was different. She's here. She's also a doctor. She graduated in Russia also. (Applause) And to go back and to work with our mother is just what we saw in the civil war -- when I was 16, and my sister was 11, when the civil war broke out. So it was the need and the people we saw in the early '90s -- that's what made us go back and work for them. PM: So what is the biggest challenge working, mother and daughter, in such dangerous and sometimes scary situations? HA: Yes, I was working in a tough situation, very dangerous. And when I saw the people who needed me, I was staying with them to help, because I [could] do something for them. Most people fled abroad. But I remained with those people, and I was trying to do something -- [any] little thing I [could] do. I succeeded in my place. Now my place is 90,000 people who are respecting each other, who are not fighting. But we try to stand on our feet, to do something, little things, we can for our people. And I'm thankful for my daughters. When they come to me, they help me to treat the people, to help. They do everything for them. They have done what I desire to do for them. PM: What's the best part of working with your mother, and the most challenging part for you? DM: She's very tough; it's most challenging. She always expects us to do more. And really when you think [you] cannot do it, she will push you, and I can do it. That's the best part. She shows us, trains us how to do and how to be better [people] and how to do long hours in surgery -- 300 patients per day, 10, 20 surgeries, and still you have to manage the camp -- that's how she trains us. It is not like beautiful offices here, 20 patients, you're tired. You see 300 patients, 20 surgeries and 90,000 people to manage. PM: But you do it for good reasons. (Applause) Wait. Wait. HA: Thank you. DM: Thank you. (Applause) HA: Thank you very much. DM: Thank you very much.

Video Details

Duration: 8 minutes and 23 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Producer: TEDTalks
Director: TED.com
Views: 3,405
Posted by: tedtalks on Feb 8, 2011

They've been called the "saints of Somalia." Doctor Hawa Abdi and her daughter Deqo Mohamed discuss their medical clinic in Somalia, where -- in the face of civil war and open oppression of women -- they've built a hospital, a school and a community of peace.

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