Ilwad Elman


Director of programs & development

Ilwad Elman

Ilwad is responsible for designing and overseeing the Elman Peace & Human Rights Centre’s programs with a broad portfolio focus on:

  • Human Rights
  • Gender Justice
  • Protection of Civilians
  • Peace & Security
  • Social Entrepreneurship

Ilwad returned from Canada to Somalia in 2010 whilst the conflict still raged heavily and the majority of Mogadishu and South Central Regions of Somalia were lost to the control of the Al-Qaeda linked terrorist group Al-Shabaab. She remained in Somalia ever since, co-founding the first rape crisis centre for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, designing interventions aimed at security sector reform to create an inclusive space for women in peace building, and developing programs for the disarmament and rehabilitation of child soldiers and adults defecting from armed groups for their socio-economic empowerment, rehabilitation, and reintegration.

Ilwad and Elman Peace alongside the UNDP have convened leading peace and security practitioners from African Civil Society Organizations to create Peace By Africa, an Africa Wide Civil Society Network on Inclusive Reintegration and Community Based Peace Building Strategies.

Beyond her duties at Elman Peace; Ilwad is an Expert Panelist for the Environment of Peace Initiative. With the aim to increase understanding of how climate change and other environmental crises increase risks to peace and security, Ilwad and 12 other experts bring their knowledge and experience to the report and help to communicate its findings.

Ilwad is also an advocate for the Kofi Annan foundation’s latest initiative called Extremely Together, where she and 9 other youth leaders under the mentorship of the late Mr. Kofi Annan are Preventing Violent Extremism by inspiring, engaging, and empowering youth globally.

Ilwad additionally 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, as well as 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.

Ilwad 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. She later co-wrote the Youth Action Agenda on Countering Violent Extremism which was cited in the historic UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on youth, peace and security. August 2016, Ilwad 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.

In 2018, Ilwad was appointment by UN Secretary General António Guterres as a member of his advisory group to the UN Peacebuilding Trust Fund where she provided advice and oversight on the allocations, programming and policies of the Peacebuilding Fund. The Group provided important inputs and ideas on how financing can support and strengthen the efforts of the UN towards peacebuilding and sustaining peace.

Ilwad was honoured with the 2015 Gleitsman International Activist Award from Harvard University and the 2016 Right the Wrongs Award from Oxfam America. In 2017, Ilwad was named and honoured with the award for “Young African Woman of the Year 2016” and in 2017 she was a finalist of the Aurora Prize for awakening humanity. Past honourees of the awards she has received include her heroes Nobel Peace Laureates Nelson Mandela, Muhammed Yunus and Leymah Gbowee.

From the front lines of conflict and often in the face of extreme insecurities; Ilwad continues to innovate the advocacy efforts of Elman Peace. 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.