Changing The World According to Ilwad Elman

Published 3 years ago

“I’m a fighter. I’m the kind of person that for better or worse runs towards a problem and tries to solve it even if it’s in a burning house.”

These powerful words come from 31-year-old Somalian-Canadian activist, Ilwad Elman, who spoke at the 6th FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit on March 8. The 2021 Nobel Peace Prize nominee spoke about her natural instinct to invoke change.

The daughter of entrepreneur and peace activist Elman Ali Ahmed and social activist Fartuun Adan, Elaman says once the Somalian war broke in the 1990s, her parents had to make the difficult decision to split up. Adan took Elman and her sisters to Canada where they were refugees, and Ahmed stayed in Somalia fighting for peace.


“My father was killed in pursuit of peace,” Elman said. “But his slogan ‘drop the gun, pick up the pen’ can still be seen marked on the streets of Mogadishu 25 years after his death.”

And this has inspired Elman all her life.

At the age of 20, she co-founded Somalia’s first rape crisis center. Since then, she has become a champion for peace and security giving all those impacted by conflict — particularly women and girls — a seat at the table. Through her organization, the Elman Peace Centre in Mogadishu, Elman has created a methodology for community-based peace-building in contexts of ongoing conflict that is now being exported to conflicts across Africa.

“So if you want to change the world, you need to first know and search within yourself with deep humility, zero egos, and profound clarity,” Elman said.


Also proposed this year as a Nobel Peace Prize nominee is Hajer Sharief, a Libyan peace and human rights activist. She co-leads the work of the Together We Build It (TWBI) organization in Libya. In 2011, and at the age of 19, she co-founded TWBI to build peace in Libya and promote human rights. One of UN Women’s 12 Champions on Women, Peace and Security and Human Rights, she is a member of the Extremely Together young leaders, an initiative by Kofi Annan and the Kofi Annan Foundation, and in 2020, was named by FORBES AFRICA as one Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women along with Elman.

– Watch the full video of Ilwad Elman’s talk at the 2021 FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit here