Hawwa, Dhivehi Beys Practioner at S. Meedhoo

MV+ News Desk | January 7, 2023

“Undocumented migrant workers who do not receive healthcare from hospitals comes to me for treatment,” says Hawwa, 55-years old, a Maldivian traditional medicine (‘Dhivehi Beys’ or ދިވެހިބޭސް) practitioner from S. Meedhoo.

Hawwa tells us about her story and how she started practicing Dhivehi Beys 25 years ago.

“A close friend urgently needed a specific ointment for treatment, but I didn’t know how to make it. I sought the help of a practitioner at the time—but she refused it.”

The (unnamed) practitioner wanted to preserve the knowledge within their family, “She told me she didn’t teach outsiders, and that when she dies, the practice will be carried out by her children.”

Ironically, the practitioner enlisted the help of Hawwa’s father to bring ingredients on his trips to Malé. Eventually, through her father, Hawwa came to know the ingredients being used and began her practice. Over the years she collaborated with other practitioners in Northern and Central Maldives to enhance her knowledge and practice.

“The most challenging case I’ve come across, was a patient who had severe skin cracks (‘dermatitis’) due to an allergy. I treated both his legs. I have also treated a woman whose arms were covered with skin warts.”

“People don’t believe in the healing properties of traditional medicine anymore. It’s not that I earn a lot of income from this. But I treat a lot of undocumented migrant workers, because it would be a disservice to the practice not to.”

Hawwa reveals she has treated every migrant worker in her island, “I treated about 30 migrant workers last year.” It is no surprise that migrant workers use terms of endearment such as the “Beys Dhattha” (Medication Sister) for her.

Hawwa also grows several herbs she needs for her practice at home. What she cannot grow at home, she brings them from Malé.

“Aside from traditional medicine, I also farm taro plants in my backyard. I have wetlands in my backyard, used by the generations before us as part of the community-farming land. Even though I don’t earn much, it makes me so happy that I can live from the fruits of my labour and don’t have to depend on anyone.”

Traditional medicine of the Maldives comes from an intimate understanding of our diverse flora and fauna and its connection to human bodies.