The German Africa Foundation has confirmed that Ilwad Elman will be honored later this month in Berlin by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. At be 30, Elman is already considered one of Somalia’s leading voices as the country edges tentatively towards stability.
Elman’s efforts have led the German Africa Foundation to hand its marquee prize to the internationally recognised expert on conflict resolution, chosen from a shortlist of 30 candidates.
As Somalia descended into civil war at the beginning of the 1990s, her father Elman Ali Ahmed — an engineer by training, as well as an entrepreneur and social activist — had established rehabilitation and apprenticeship schemes for Somali child soldiers and orphans of war-torn Somalia.
When Mogadishu became unsafe, Ilwad Elman had to flee to Canada with her mother as a two-year-old. Her father chose to stay in Somalia, but was assassinated in 1996.
Despite the danger, Ilwad returned to Somalia in 2010 with her mother and sisters to continue her father’s work and legacy. Over the past ten years, Ilwad and her mother, Farttun Adan, have built up the Elman Peace Center, a tightly run non-profit organization with 172 employees and eight regional branches.