Here’s What the Muslim Women Nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize Really Represent

Editor’s note: In honor of International Day of the Girl, our girl Amani tells us exactly why the nomination of two African Muslim women working towards uplifting their communities represents so much more than it seems. 

Two of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize nominees were Ilwad Eman, 29, and Hajer Sharief, 26. They are both part of the “Extremely Together” enterprise, an initiative which brings about 10 globally-situated activists together, and empowers them to continue the work that they do to protect and lift up their communities at the grassroots level. These two millennials are the epitome of women’s empowerment. 

The Situation

Both based in Africa, Ilwad is originally from Mogadishu, Somalia, and Hajer hails from Libya. Ilwad’s parents, Fartum Adan and Elman Ali Ahmed, were both heavily involved in humanitarian work, painting a pretty accurate picture of where she derives her passion for helping those communities who need it the most. Sadly, her father was later assassinated during a time of war in the 90’s. 

On the other hand, Hajer started to get involved in humanitarian and peace work after being witness to some horrifying events in Libya during the Libyan civil war in 2011. She was just 19 in 2011 and founded an organization which is called “Together We Build It.”  The purpose of this organization is the empowerment of women after the ravages of war destroy life as they know it. Her determination to offer support ensures that she continues to be a role model and an inspiration for those in Libya, and those throughout North Africa. She’s currently studying law, all the while being living proof of the fact that one person can make a huge difference!

The Nobel Peace Prize, initially awarded in 1901, is to “honor the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.”

These nominations were a positive step forwards in a long journey to combat the stereotypes that insist on Muslim women being seen as weak, subservient, and oppressed.

Due to their past, the obstacles these women have faced, and the work they have put in to support their communities, both Ilwad and Hajer have been deservedly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Both women have done a lot for their respective countries at a grassroots level.

Specifically about Ilwad, the Elman Peace & Human Rights Centre stated:

“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.” 

So What’s the Big Deal? 

This is a huge step forward for Muslim women, and I hope to see more Muslim women nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in the future, insha’Allah. These nominations were a positive step forwards in a long journey to combat the stereotypes that insist on Muslim women being seen as weak, subservient, and oppressed.

In addition to this, this nomination uplifts Muslim women to a platform that recognizes some of the most intelligent and most people in the world, and it does it on a global stage for the world to see how incredible Muslim women can be.

These prestigious nominations of two talented, determined African Muslim women will present Muslim women how they deserve to be presented. These nominations will lead to a more accurate representation of the capabilities of Muslim women due to the fact that these women, Ilwad and Hajer, will get to tell their stories in their own words, without the filter of a society that seeks to limit how Muslim women are seen.

These women are paving the way for other Muslim women of color, and that’s a pretty incredible movement in and of itself if you ask me. 

While Ilwad and Hajer may not have been the favorites to win, their nomination is a huge step for Muslim women. After all, in 2014 Malala Yousafzai became the youngest Muslim women to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. And guess what? She took it all the way, eventually becoming the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner at the tender age of 17, once again proving that a determined Muslim women is a force to be reckoned with.