Edna Adan Ismail, 85, from Somaliland, won the 2023 Templeton Prize on Tuesday – the first African woman to win the prestigious award, Anadolu News Agency reports.
The nurse, midwife, activist and former politician was honoured for her contributions to women’s health.
“Every many achievements include the founding of the Edna Adan University and Edna Adan Hospital, which has significantly reduced maternal mortality in Somaliland,” according to the John Templeton Foundation.
Her tireless campaign to end female genital mutilation around the world also earned her recognition.
“Drawing on the doctrines of the Muslim faith, she has employed her positions of authority to argue passionately that, despite what some have believed, female circumcision is against the teachings of Islam, and deeply harmful to women,” said Foundation President, Heather Templeton Dill .
“Like Mother Teresa, who received the first Templeton Prize fifty years ago in 1973, Edna has dedicated herself to helping a community that did not have adequate medical care, thereby achieving a global impact,” according to the Foundation.
She will receive nearly $1.4 million for the prize, one of the world’s largest annual individual awards.
Ismail said she was blessed and honoured to receive the award and will donate a portion to the US-based Friends of Edna Maternity Hospital and will continue to train the next generation of health care workers that East Africa so desperately needs.
The outspoken critic of female genital mutilation was born in 1937 to a prominent family in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland – the breakaway region of Somalia.
She served as the first and only female Cabinet member in 2002 as Minister of Social Affairs of Somaliland which declared independence from Somalia in 1991. From 2003 to 2006, she served as the Foreign Minister.
The Templeton Prize was established in 1972 and is given to individuals whose exemplary achievements advance Sir John Templeton’s philanthropic vision of harnessing the power of the sciences to explore the deepest questions of the universe and humankind’s place and purpose within it.
Ismail joins a list of 52 prize recipients, including St. Teresa of Kolkata (1973) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (2013).