‘Through the Fire’ shows a side of Somalia and Somaliland beyond the all-too-familiar news reports of piracy, war, and famine. It tells the stories of remarkable Somali women who risk their lives to run essential humanitarian projects that have sustained their communities through decades of conflict. By giving insights into the strength and resilience of these women, we see how they use their personal tragedies to compel themselves to work for the greater good rather than remaining helpless victims of circumstances.
The documentary gives an intimate portrait of the life and work of three exceptional women, who, in the midst of two decades of bitter civil war, have risen up to rebuild their shattered nation. They have each fought against seemingly insurmountable obstacles to spearhead efforts towards peace, laying foundations for social, health and educational infrastructure. The stories of these women and all that they have achieved are truly inspiring. When the world abandoned them and their communities, they refused to give up or walk away.
Dr Hawa Abdi trained as a medic and opened a clinic on her family’s ancestral land in the 1980s. When civil war erupted in 1991, people flocked to her clinic for medical care. As the war intensified, the clinic grew into a hospital, and her land became a safe haven for displaced persons. When Al-Shabaab laid siege to the hospital she refused to back down. Today her Foundation runs a village for 90,000 refugees, a 400-bed hospital, and an 800-student school. In recognition of her services to humanity, she was selected as a 2012 Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
Former First Lady, Foreign Minister and UN diplomat, Edna Adan Ismail founded the Edna Adan University Hospital of Somaliland upon retirement in 2002. Since then the hospital has trained countless healthcare professionals and made great strides in the fight against maternal mortality. Recently named among the 100 most influential Africans, Edna is recognised internationally as a pioneer of women’s health and education. She is a longstanding campaigner against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and has made much progress through education.
Ilwad Elman is a Somali-born woman who grew up in Canada but returned to Mogadishu in 2009, at the height of the conflict. Her purpose was to continue the work of her deceased father, Elman Ali Ahmed, a pioneering human rights activist who was assassinated for disarming children throughout the city. Today she runs a program to rehabilitate child soldiers and integrate them back into society. Elman’s Centre has fought against the stigma and silence surrounding sexual violence, providing shelter and therapeutic support to victims of abuse.