Sr. Mariam Khalifa – GM & Founder of Kadisco General Hospital

Mariam Khalifa was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She jokingly boasts that she was the only one amongst her siblings to be born in a public hospital called Fluha Hospital, while the others were all born in private institutions. Born into a family of four brothers and three sisters, while in high school during the Derg regime and the unsettled environment of Ethiopia at the time, her family arranged for her brothers to move to England and she remembers literarily begging them to allow her to go as well. Once there she was certain she did not want to go back home, she wanted to study alongside her brothers in England, and so convinced her parents to leave her behind as well.

Her family left her with a family there that had a young disabled daughter of whom, Sr. Mariam volunteered to help with raising in turn for allowing her to live with them to finish her studies. There she finished high school and took her four-year nursing course to become a certified nurse. She said she was moved by a specific moment that she will never forget; a midwife that helped her aunt go through her natural childbirth. She had found her calling at sixteen. She knew that all she wanted to do was help women through pregnancy and the birthing process. It became her dream and her sole motivation throughout her life from that point on.

Kadisco is the result of a family business founded by her father decades ago as a trading company, which then expanded to a manufacturing, healthcare and real estate enterprise. Kadisco General Hospital just recently celebrated its 10th year, having created hundreds of jobs for its community. Kadisco has partnered with specialized hospitals and well-known medical professionals overseas in order to provide specialized care to its patients here in Ethiopia. In addition to that, it eases the transportation and transition of its patients that need extra care overseas. Visited by international insurance companies, various NGOs, almost every Embassy in the country, Kadisco has made its mark in Ethiopia as a staple health institute, delivering quality care to its patients and also providing assistance to several patients with limited financial resources.

It is currently working on its plan to expand its Hospital by constructing a facility accredited by the International Quality Management System. As part of its social responsibility endeavors, Kadisco has also been involved in the construction of:

  • an office building for the Gerji Police Department
  • a Kindergarten for the Woreda 14 administration
  • a community police center in Gerji and Nefas Silk area
  • the cobblestone road construction for the community residing around the Hospital

As a midwife and the acting hospital manager, Sr. Mariam is currently in charge of the overall activities of the Hospital including managing over 250 staff. Her passions lie in the service she provides women, she truly loves to be able to guide, and help pregnant women throughout their pregnancy till their child’s birth. She appreciates the process of bringing life into the world; comically saying she pushes when her patients push and cries when their husbands cry at the end. In addition to this all, she has enrolled herself in an online University to receive her Master’s Degree.

She attributes most of her path to finding her life’s purpose in nursing to have come from her time helping her English family raise their disabled daughter. And her experience with her first viewing of a water birth instilled in her an even stronger drive to promote such practices and also natural birth at large. She tried to introduce the practice in Ethiopia but was met with some challenges that she is still trying to overcome as far as the technicality are concerned. In England she involved herself in various charity work, throwing fundraising events for different causes, especially with fistula, in Ethiopia as well.

Personally, she helps with many community environment cleaning projects such as providing uniforms and such and also helping families put their children through school. She has also dedicated a specific time once a week to provide classes to pregnant women and their partners to teach them small facts about their pregnancy state that includes light yoga to the class. She had also opened up an NGO with a group of friends called “Women for Life” with the sole objective of raising funds to buy hospital equipment for small hospitals and clinics to provide specialized pregnancy and birthing care for financially limited women in Ethiopia. Unfortunately, with the limited time that her and her partners could contribute to it’s functioning, even with an outsourced manager, the NGO was closed after just five years of its launch. She regrets not having done as much as the NGO’s potential could have offered the country, but with lack of proper finances and dedicated time, it just could not continue at the time.

Her biggest challenge as a working mother has always been the guilt of feeling as though she never spent enough time with her children, especially the younger ones. With her first two children, she was lucky enough to have been working as a health officer at the Swedish Clinic and the Canadian Embassy, here in Ethiopia, which allowed her flexible time enough to spend more time with her children and more importantly to be able to breastfeed as much as she wanted. Actually, the Ambassador, who was a female, allowed her to bring her child to work to be able to easily breastfeed in between working hours. That experience has motivated her to begin to pursue her dream of building a daycare at her Hospital in the coming future for her female staff primarily because she is a strong advocate on breastfeeding.

Her accomplishments includes building the 60-bed hospital as part of her family’s business enterprise and, at the time of inception, as a young female being able to effectively manage all her senior medical professional staff to its 10th year anniversary. But with such an accomplishment and the time, energy and commitment it took on her part to fulfill her passion to serve as a nurse and midwife, her journey has implanted in her a big sense of emptiness in terms of the time she has never taken for herself. Other than the time she allocates for her gym and the small circle of friends she has, she is extremely busy with running the hospital and raising her children. She very much appreciates her husband, who is also a physician, in his constant support. She is particularly grateful to her father who has always made the effort to help women and says has taught her patience for her line of work.

She wants the youth to know that the most important thing to do is to trust in yourself and the dream that you have. The excitement of following your dream, she says is the key motivation to fulfilling it. You should not be afraid of trying anything if it is part of your dream’s journey. And for young working mothers specifically, she wants them to know that having a child should not discourage you from pursuing your dream and doing the work involved in realizing it. The most important thing is to manage your time accordingly and her personal strategy for that is to make sure to never leave tasks for the next day and to delegate as necessary.

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