Celebrating a Friend of Fistula Foundation

Edna Adan Ismail Wins the 2023 Templeton Prize

Edna Adan Ismail, a nurse-midwife and one of the planet’s most powerful advocates for women, has broken another barrier: She was recently named the winner of the 2023 Templeton Prize. According to the Templeton Prize organization, it’s the largest prize ever given to a single African woman.  

The Templeton Prize, valued at approximately $1.4 million, is one of the world’s largest annual awards given to an individual. It was established by the late global investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton to honor those who “[harness] the power of the sciences to explore the deepest questions of the universe and humankind’s place and purpose within it.” Edna joins a cadre of remarkable individuals as a Templeton Prize laureate. Six of the 52 past laureates are also Nobel Prize laureates.

Edna has dedicated a significant portion of the prize money to benefit the maternity hospital that shares her name, which she built from the ruins of civil war, on the site of a government garbage dump. In 2009, when we expanded our mission to fight obstetric fistula globally, Edna’s hospital became one of our first partners, and we have continued funding her work ever since. Her mission today is to fight the number-one obstacle that she has faced her entire life: the challenge of being a woman in a world built by men.

Take a few minutes to watch this inspiring video from the Templeton Prize organization that celebrates her work.

Image of Edna Adan Ismail with text stating

From an early age, Edna embodied the spirit of the Templeton Prize by working to change the hearts and minds of her fellow countrymen and countrywomen by challenging social norms for the betterment of women and girls in Somaliland. “I didn’t want boys to think that girls couldn’t learn,” said Edna. She went on to become the first female Foreign Minister of Somaliland. In that role, she fiercely advocated for women and girls, and in particular she championed the abolition of female genital mutilation (FGM), of which she herself had become a victim at age seven. 

In 2012, CEO Kate Grant wrote a piece for the Huffington Post in which she called Edna the “Muslim Mother Teresa” of our day because of her unwavering moral compass, her outspoken condemnation of injustices like FGM, and her dedication to making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate than herself. Edna was awarded this honor exactly 50 years after Mother Teresa was recognized as the Templeton Prize’s inaugural laureate.

Edna’s legacy is indelible, as is her profound concern for the health and well-being of her country. She sets an example for all of us. Here are a few closing remarks from Edna’s acceptance speech for the Templeton Prize:

“I hope that the Templeton Prize will draw more attention to the work at Edna Adan Hospital and University and that the example of my life will prove to all the power of love, respect, and determination, and also inspire and motivate others to make the best use of whatever knowledge, skills, and professional expertise they have to serve and benefit humanity wherever they may be.”

—Edna Adan Ismail, winner of the 2023 Templeton Prize

Published on September 18, 2023

Photo credit: Tim Cole for the Templeton Prize

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