Ilwad Elman. Photo credit: Ilwad Elman/Facebook.
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Somali activist Ilwad Elman tipped to win the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize

Somali social rights activist Ilwad Elman has been nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. The Prize honours persons who have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.

The nominations for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize have the fourth highest number of candidates ever standing at 301, not too far from the current record of 376 candidates reached in 2016. Out of the 301 candidates 223 are individuals and 78 are organizations.

Among them are Somali social rights activist Ilwad Elman and Libyan law student Hajer Sharief. These two African women have been lauded for their peacebuilding efforts in their respective countries.

“Through the combined effect of the grass-root programmatic interventions she designs as well as her global advocacy; she has sparked national movements internally and garnered international attention externally to yield action towards durable solutions for the human suffering and protracted crisis in Somalia,” the Elman Peace & Human Rights Centre details of its co-founder.

Ilwad Elman

According to her profile, Elman returned to Somalia from Canada in 2010 whilst the region’s conflict was still at its peak. At the time majority of Mogadishu and South-Central Regions of Somalia were lost to the control of the Al-Qaeda linked terrorist group Al-Shabaab.

She however remained in Somalia and went on to co-found the Elman Peace & Human Rights Centre. The organisation’s portfolio includes, starting the first rape crisis centre for survivors of sexual and gender based violence, and designing interventions aimed at security sector reform to create an inclusive space for women in peace building. The organisation also develops programs for the disarmament and rehabilitation of child soldiers and adults defecting from armed groups for their socio-economic empowerment, rehabilitation and reintegration.

Outside of Elman Peace she is an advocate for the Kofi Annan foundation’s latest initiative called ‘Extremely Together’, where she and other youth leaders under the mentorship of the Foundation are Preventing Violent Extremism by inspiring, engaging and empowering youth globally.

Read: Somalia’s first female mayor appointed in the city of Beledweyne

Speaking on her involvement Elman said, “Our world today is a complex place with more man-made conflicts now than ever before in history. Violent extremism affects us all and often our motivations to act against violent extremism and to join the fight for peace develop from our personal experiences. What initially compelled me to become involved in peace building was a personal and significant loss to violent extremism”.

The loss she alludes to is her father who was killed for his unrelenting commitment to peace because through his initiative “Drop the Gun, Pick up the Pen” he began to dismantle the clan based militias and counter the messages of hate and divide the warlords preached to radicalize and entice youth. For this he lost his life.

Career profile

Elman also serves as the chair of the Child Protection Gender Based Violence Case Management Group in Mogadishu; is a founding member of the Advisory Committee for Researching Gender Based Violence Social Norms in Somalia and South Sudan, is a member of the international practitioners network for civilian casualty recording, and an expert in the Women Waging Peace Network for Inclusive Security.

She has served as the One Young World Ambassador to Somalia since 2013, completed President Barrack Obama’s flagship White House fellowship for Young African Leaders in 2014 and in the same year was appointed Youth Ambassador to Somalia for Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Read: Somalis warned to stop seeking justice in Al-Shabaab courts

Notably she was the first civil society representative in 2015 invited to speak before the UN Security Council on the Protection of Civilians debate. It was also the first time the annual thematic debate focused on women’s empowerment and participation.

Elman co-wrote the Youth Action Agenda on Countering Violent Extremism that was cited in the historic UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on youth, peace and security. In 2016 she was appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon an expert advisor on Youth, Peace & Security and has been tasked to counsel a study to develop a strategy on UNSCR 2250.

Awards and accolades

She has been honoured with the 2015 Gleitsman International Activist Award from Harvard University and the 2016 Right the Wrongs Award from Oxfam America, the award for “Young African Woman of the Year 2016” and in 2017 she was a finalist of the Aurora Prize for awakening humanity.

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