Somali-Canadian activist Ilwad Elman got her call to activism early. Her parents are both esteemed advocates for peace, her father Elman Ali Ahmed even earning the nickname “Somali father of peace.” But it was the work that he did to promote peace and reconciliation that led to his political assassination in 1996, while Ilwad, her mother and three sisters lived in asylum in Canada. Fearlessly Ilwad’s mother Fartuun Adan returned to Mogadishu in 2006 to continue the work she had started with her husband, running the Elman Peace and Human Rights Center. Ilwad followed her mother’s lead in 2010, returning to Somalia during a time of conflict to help carry on her father’s legacy. As Director of Programs and Development, of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Center she specializes in human rights, peace-building and countering violent extremism. Among her many accomplishments in that role are co-founding the first rape crisis center for victims of sexual and gender based violence, developing programs to rehabilitate and disarm child soldiers, and creating inclusive spaces for women in peace building.
She’s even lending her time and expertise to other initiatives, like the Kofi Annan Foundation’s Extremely Together program, through which she continues the work of influencing youth around the world, the Child Protection Gender Based Violence Case Management Group in Mogadishu on which she serves as chair, and the Advisory Committee for Researching Gender Based Violence Social Norms in Somalia and South Sudan of which she is a founding member. Ilwad has been recognized internationally for her efforts. In 2016 she and her mother were honored by OxFam America with the Right the Wrong award, and in 2017 Ilwad received the BET Global Good Star Award for her continuous efforts to resist violence in her country. "The human rights of those living in fragile, failing or armed conflict states matter now and not only when war is over," she said at the UN General Assembly in New York last year. An important message for the world on the state of individuals suffering from the trauma as a result of exposure to war.