KBF Africa Prize Laureates: At Home in Somalia, At Home in Ottawa

8 December 2022

On October 26, 2022, the winners of the 2020-2021 KBF Africa Prize received a warm welcome in their former home-town of Ottawa. Organized by Myriad Canada, mother and daughter Fartuun Adan and Ilwad Elman visited as part of a North American tour to strengthen their networks.

KBF Africa Prize

Ilwad Elman (front, left) and Fartuun Adan (front, right), June 2022 in Brussels; the Award was presented by King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium

Created to recognize outstanding contributions to development in Africa initiated and led by African men and women, the KBF Africa Prize of the King Baudouin Foundation seeks to draw public attention to the many inspiring stories, challenges and successes emerging from this continent. Awarded every 2 years, the prize comes with a €200,000 grant and opportunities to build global contacts and partnerships.

The 2020-21 KBF Africa Prize was awarded to the Somali organization Elman Peace in recognition of its successful efforts to combat violence and promote social justice. Its record in supporting the empowerment and leadership development of women and youth is remarkable. The KBF Africa Prize Committee felt that the solutions proposed by Elman Peace in Somalia have the potential to inspire other societies, in Africa and beyond, to turn the page on conflict and follow a more inclusive path.

Elman Peace – A Family Endeavour

The Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre (‘Elman Peace’) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and developing sustainable solutions for peace, encouraging leadership and empowering vulnerable groups.

Elman Peace was founded by a family that had been severely affected by the civil war. In the 1990s, while mother Fartuun Adan and her three daughters moved to Ottawa to seek refuge, her husband Elman Ali Ahmed remained in Somalia to carry out the “Drop the Gun, Pick up the Pen” initiative aimed at diverting young people to join war groups. Elman Ali Ahmed was assassinated in 1996 by opponents of his project.

In 2006, Fartuun decided to return to Mogadishu to continue running the organization she had founded with her husband. She was joined in 2010 by Ilwad and shortly thereafter by her two other daughters. In 2019, the family was again hit by tragedy as Almaas Elman, the eldest daughter, was murdered at Mogadishu airport.

Elman Peace uses a holistic, community-based approach with projects focused on education, women’s participation in politics, the fight against violence against women and girls, skills-building, personal well-being and the fight against climate change. It also includes the ‘Drop the Gun, Pick Up the Pen’ initiative, originally led by Elman Ali Ahmed, which focuses on the reintegration of child soldiers and adults from armed groups into their communities. A school in the name of Almaas for leadership training for girls from disadvantaged backgrounds was also recently opened.

With more than 200 employees at its headquarters and eight regional centres, Elman Peace is a well-known organization for its work. Fartuun and Ilwad have received numerous awards for their efforts, including the 2022 Right Livelihood Award. Ilwad has been involved in several international fora, including the UN, and has been shortlisted three times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Back Home In Ottawa

As part of the North American tour to celebrate the 2020-2021 KBF Africa Award winners, Fartuun and Ilwad were returned to Ottawa this past October to participate in a public event co-hosted by Myriad Canada and the Global Centre for Pluralism, covered by the CBC.

Federal Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, himself of Somali origin, addressed the audience. The event was moderated by Meredith Preston McGhie, Secretary General of the Global Centre for Pluralism.

Fartuun and Ilwad spoke passionately about the issues facing Somalia and about peace-building mechanisms and strategies they use in their programs, such as employment and education for youth and girls. “We are basically a peace organization, but we recognize that peace is much more than the absence of war,” said Ilwad.

At a reception hosted at the residence of the Belgian Ambassador to Canada. From left to right: : Thomas Leysen, President of Myriad Canada; Ilwad Elman; guest; Fartuun Adan; Ambassador Patrick Van Gheel.

Both Ilwad and Fartuun believe that Canadians have a lot to contribute. “Canadians are known for protecting and promoting human rights on a global scale,” said Ilwad in response to a question from the audience. “So many people in this country have a strong connection to their countries of origin. There is an opportunity for [Canadians] to be a part of creating and enabling progressive societies in their countries of origin.”


“You’re an example to all of us on the power of hope, of agency, of the ability to envision a better future, not just for the people, but actually doing it with them and empowering them in the process.”

                                                                                                 –        The Honourable Ahmed Hussen


For more information or to support the Canadian Friends of Elman Peace, please click here.