Continuing Her Father's Legacy - Ilwad Elman

"Qoriga dhig, qalinka qaad - put down the gun, pick up the pen" - The late Elman Ali Ahmed. 

(Picture above: Ilwad Elman at Somali Week Festival.)

When you hear about a young Somalis deciding to relocate back to Somalia for various purposes, some may think they're out of their mind, but many young Somali males and females look up to Ilwad Elman Ali.  

 (Picture above: The late Elman Ali Ahmed.)

Ilwad is one of the daughters of the late Elman Ali Ahmed, who was assassinated in Mogadishu in 1996, during the height of the civil war, a passionate peace activist who tried to keep the young people off the streets and away from the criminal activities that had become common such as robbery and looting. Elman Ali left his legacy behind in the form of his daughter and wife.

Alongside Fartun Adan, her mother, Ilwad runs the Elman Peace and Humans Right Center in Mogadishu. EPHRC also has a subsidiary, called Sister Somalia. Sister Somalia is also Somalia's first program of assistance for gender-based violence, which provides advice, counseling as well as housing support for victims. EPHRC also provides workshops for young men and women with various training for professional fields, assisting them for the future and alternative opportunities, with the key goal to keep them away from various paths such as criminal activities and extremism. 

Whilst recently in London for the annual Somali Week Festival 2014, hosted by Kayd Somali Arts and Culture, Ilwad took Q&A's from intrigued audience members, both young and old, in regards to the documentary called Through the Fire. The documentary was released in 2013 starring Dr Hawa Abdi, Edna Adan and Ilwad Elman.  It highlighted the work of these three remarkable women during the dark times of the civil war, as well as post-civil war progress. 

When I asked some of the young people in the audience about the documentary and what they had just seen, all of them appreciated what these women do, and hoped to follow in their footsteps and relocate back to Somalia in the future.

"Ilwad personally made me feel proud to be a young Somali girl. We get a lot of criticism for not being inspiring or ambitious, but seeing Ilwad today and the way she spoke so passionately about things made me realise that we can make a change in this world." - Hafsa, 19.

"I always use to read about the Elman organisation on social media, I wondered why people always gave props to Ilwad, but today, her Q&A made me see how genuine she is, her father would be proud." - Mohamed, 23

"Ilwad and Fartun are true inspirations to the Somali community, I hope to make my mark on this world like them one day." - Samira 16

During a discussion at SOAS, School of Oriential and African Studies in London, Ilwad gave a speech about Identity and Culture, addressing many issues that Somali's face with the identity and culture clashes. Ilwad addressed sexual gender based violence within the community, and the first hand experience she has had dealing with the repercussions of it. She explained that the idea of identity and culture, to her had no specific explanation, as her day-to-day life in Somalia made her notice many various cultures, through the influence of the locals and the diaspora. She also expressed the uncommon behaviour of sitting in various places within the Horn and hearing many different languages. Ilwad explained the problems victims of gender based violence and what they face, and described the new culture evolving in Somalia around these issues; "There is a new culture in Somalia, the culture of silence". After her speech, she received an ovation from the audience who enjoyed listening to what she had to say. 

We would like to congratulate the team and Elman Peace Org. for their continuous work in Somalia and hope they keep it up. You give light to those who were in dark, you give courage to those who once thought they were weak, but most importantly, you give a voice to those who once couldn't speak. Keep it up!

By Amina Adan


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