Somalia’s name first appears in mind when it comes to the world’s failed countries. And with this, a question also remains, how will the people there live? But they are also living and fighting for their own sake, fighting for life for the coming breeds of Somalia. Ilwad Elman was born in the capital Mogadishu to the home of one such spunky couple. She will turn 31 on December 22.
Ilman Ali’s entrepreneur father, Elman Ali Ahmed, was an intense pacifist in the 1990s. He had his own motor workshop where people used to come to repair the vehicles. The situation in Somalia was getting worse day by day. The capital was not safe from the flames of civil war. Ahmed, the father of four daughters, believed that no one would come from outside to change the situation, only Somali people would have to take the initiative. Especially teenagers and young people will have to meet the dreams of an old Somalia.
Ahmed began to inspire new breeds. One of his slogans was well-known in those days – “Throw the gun, pick up the pen.” He also started a technical training institute to rehabilitate gun drop fighters. Many youngsters were getting influenced by Ahmed’s words. It did not make all the rebel groups happy.
They started getting threats. Initially, Ahmad ignored them. But there was a turning point when he saw his family’s life in danger. Ahmed had to accept with great heart that there was no other option but to expel the family from Somalia. He sent his wife and daughters to Canada, but kept himself engaged in his cause in Mogadishu. Ahmed’s family found refuge in Canada. But on 9 March 1996, Ahmed was killed near his home.
Ilwad Elman grew up in a very open, democratic environment in Canada, where he came to know this world. All the news related to Somalia would have been related to bloodshed, kidnapping and rape. Reading these news, Ilwad and his sisters were greatly hurt and think that Somali are calling them. He was raised by parents who believed that life should have a purpose.
Finally, Ilwad returned to Somalia in 2010 with her mother, although at that time, many areas of Mogadishu dominated the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist organization al-Shabaab. The 20-year-old Ilwad, along with her mother, set up a support center called ‘Elman Peace Center’ for the rehabilitation of rape girls and teenage fighters in the country. It was the first such center in Somalia.
If Ilvad wanted to, she could live a cool life in Canada, but she has to fulfill her father’s dream. Under his sister organization ‘Sister Somalia’, he resorted to yoga and art to rid the young girls and women of mental oppression of the terrorists from mental torture. She started arranging for his rehabilitation. In 2012, Somalia held its first technology, entertainment, design conference, calling Ilwad as the keynote speaker. On this occasion, he presented Sister Somalia’s efforts in the Navnirman of Somalia in a very effective manner.
Bahadur Ilwad not only impressed the common and special people of the capital with his humanitarian work, but also recognized his experience and leadership ability outside Somalia. Ilwad, one of the nine youth representatives of ‘Extremely Together’, a new initiative of the organization of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, is working to establish peace around the world under the leadership of Annan. In 2015, he was invited by the United Nations Security Council to participate in the debate on civil-security, in view of Ilvad’s commitment to peace. This was the first time that a person from civil society had been invited to speak on this issue. In 2016, the then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed her as Special Adviser on Youth, Peace and Security. Ilvad, who has been awarded several global accolades, has recently been included in the BBC’s 100 Inspirational Women of the Year.
The life of Ilwad is a great example of the huge cost that citizens of a failed country have to pay. Last year, his sister was also shot in the capital Mogadishu. But the peace efforts of Ilvad have not stopped, it has strengthened further.