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Ilwad Elman


Name: Ilwad Elman
Born: 1989
Nationality: Somalia Somalia

Ilwad Elman is a young female leader at the forefront of the Somali peace process, and a global authority on ending conflict and preventing violent extremism. After the assassination of her father, prominent Somali peace activist Ilwad and her family became refugees, eventually finding asylum in Canada. Aged 19, she felt the responsibility to leave the safety of Canada and return with her mother to a Somalia still steeped in violent conflict, where they founded the Elman Peace Centre. At just 20, she founded Somalia’s first rape crisis centre. Since then, Ilwad has become a champion of building peace through giving all those impacted by conflict – particularly women and girls – a seat at the table.

She has designed interventions aimed at security sector reform to create an inclusive space for women in peace building, and aimed at developing programmes for the disarmament and rehabilitation of child soldiers, as well as adults defecting from armed groups labeled as terrorist organisations, for their socio-economic empowerment, rehabilitation and reintegration.

Beyond her duties at the Elman Peace Centre, Ilwad is an advocate for the Kofi Annan foundation initiative Extremely Together to prevent and counter violent extremism with nine other young leaders. Ilwad first briefed the UN Security Council on the Protection of Civilians debate in 2015. It was the first time a civil society representative was invited to speak on this issue before the Security Council, as well as the first time the annual thematic debate focused on women’s empowerment and participation.

Ilwad has created a methodology for building peace in contexts of on-going conflict that is now being exported to conflicts across Africa. It has led to her becoming a UN expert advisor on Peace & Security who has written a policy cited in UN Security Council Resolution 2250, and the youngest ever board member of the UN Peacebuilding Fund, advising the UN Secretary General directly on fragile and conflict-affected States globally.

Ilwad additionally serves as:

  • UNICEF’s Global Board Member for “Generation Unlimited” on employment, training & education
  • Chair of the Child Protection & Gender-Based Violence Case Management Group in Mogadishu
  • Founding member of the Advisory Committee for Researching Gender-Based Violence Social Norms in Somalia and South Sudan
  • Founding member and sits on the steering committee of the Every Woman Treaty – a global campaign to end violence against women and girls
  • A member of the international practitioners network for civilian casualty recording
  • Expert in the Women Waging Peace Network for Inclusive Security
  • An advisor to the UAE headquartered Hedayah Center
  • One Young World Ambassador to Somalia since 2013
  • President Barack Obama’s Flagship White House fellow for Young African Leaders
  • 2018- 2019 United Kingdom’s Foreign Office International Leaders Program Fellow.

 Ilwad has been recognised for her work with many prestigious accolades including:

  • 2015 Gleitsman International Activist Award from Harvard University
  • 2016 Right the Wrongs Award from Oxfam America
  • 2016 Young African Woman of the Year Award
  • 100 Most Influential Young Africans of 2017 & 2019
  • 2017 Finalist of the Aurora Prize for awakening humanity
  • 2017 B.E.T Global Good Star Award Recipient
  • 2018 AU Most Inspiring Young Woman Award
  • 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee

More about Ilwad

Open to: Writing, speaking, training
Areas of Expertise: Counter narrative, DDR, Human Rights, peace, security, strategic communications, women, youth
Geographical Scope: Africa other conflict areas in the world


Interview – Vanity Fair: Vanity fair supports one young world, leading lights
Interview – Buzz Feed: This Charity Used The Mannequin Challenge To Highlight An Important Message
Interview – UN: Commemoration of the Twentieth Anniversary of the Mandate on Children and Armed Conflict
Interview – Vice: We spoke with an activist rehabilitating child soldiers in Somalia
Interview – HuffPost: Canadians Are Leading The Conversation About Gender Violence


  • Extremely Together's Ilwad Elman
  • TEDxMogadishu - Ilwad Elman - In memory of my father, I returned to rebuild Somalia
  • The Extremely Together Guide