- Monday, February 4, 2019

A Somali woman seeking to end the sexual mutilation of millions of girls and a Nigerian financial leader whose innovations in agriculture have expanded food security to countless African farmers have been named recipients of the 2019 Sunhak Peace Prize.

Actress and model Waris Dirie, founder of Desert Flower Foundation, and Dr. Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, will share a $1 million prize, according to organizers who announced the laureates at the “Africa Summit: Honouring the Legacy of Nelson Mandela,” held in Cape Town, South Africa, in November.

The Sunhak Peace Prize was established in 2015 by Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon in honor of her late husband, Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon, to recognize individuals and organizations that have had an extraordinary impact for peacebuilding.

The 2019 laureates — who will be honored in a ceremony in February 2019 in South Korea — are both examples of how “one person’s braveness and leadership can steer the world’s communities one step closer to world peace,” Dr. Il-sik Hong, chairman of the Sunhak Peace Prize Committee, told the Cape Town summit.

Ms. Dirie, born in 1965 to a goat-herding nomadic family in Somalia, underwent female circumcision as a little girl. The act — now called female genital mutilation or FGM — commonly involves an adult slicing away most or all of a girl’s clitoris and other genital parts with a knife or razor, without anesthesia and with adults holding the girl’s legs open while she screams. FGM complications include infection, bleeding, emotional trauma and lifelong problems with scarring, childbirth and sexual function.

When Ms. Dirie grew into a beautiful teenager, she was invited into the fashion world where she became a world-class supermodel.

In 1997, she broke her silence about her traumatic FGM experience and made a public commitment to stop the cruel and harmful practice worldwide. That same year, Ms. Dirie was appointed as the first Special Ambassador to the United Nations for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation, and she continues to spread the message that FGM is not part of any religious tradition, but violates the human rights of girls and women, is dramatically harmful to its victims and can lead to sickness and death.

In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution banning the practice of FGM; its goal is to eradicate it completely by 2030. In 2013, as a direct result of Ms. Dirie’s advocacy, 15 African Union member countries ratified the Maputo Protocol, which lists FGM as a harmful practice that must be ended.

In 2002, she created the Desert Flower Foundation to oppose FGM, and in 2013, she established the first Desert Flower Center to assist with genital reconstruction for FGM victims. Today, there are centers in Paris, Berlin, Stockholm and Amsterdam. In addition, because the FGM practice is typically carried out for “financial benefit” to families if they plan on selling their daughters, Ms. Dirie and her allies have stepped up education, literacy and job training efforts as a way to end FGM. In recent years, Ms. Dirie has worked to build a school in Sierra Leone and launched companies in Ethiopia and Kenya.

The 2019 Sunhak Peace Prize also honors Dr. Adesina for his 30 years of efforts to tackle the enormous problem of food security in Africa.

Born in 1960 in the city of Ibadan, Nigeria, Dr. Adesina won recognition in many schools, including Purdue University in Indiana, where he earned his doctorate in agricultural economics in 1988.

Dr. Adesina’s career has included multiple high-level leadership appointments, including Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development in Nigeria and. In 2010, he was named one of 17 global leaders to lead the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. In 2015, he was elected as the eighth president of the African Development Bank.

As a trusted innovator, especially in finance and farming techniques, Dr. Adesina has worked to expand rice production, attract private investment for the agriculture sector and increase the availability of credit for millions of African farmers.

In 2006, he organized the Africa Fertilizer Summit, one of the largest gatherings to address Africa’s food issues; this meeting led to the adoption of the Abuja Declaration on Fertilizer for the African Green Revolution and the goal of eradicating hunger in Africa by 2030.

As the African Development Bank’s president, he is energizing the “High 5 Strategy” to light up and power Africa, feed Africa, industrialize Africa, integrate Africa, and improve the quality of life for the people of Africa.

To build “an era of peace and coexistence in the 21st century, we have to bring Africa’s development and human rights issues to the world’s consciousness and solve these issues together, as a global family,” Dr. Hong told the Cape Town summit. The 2019 laureates’ “sacrificial journey will bring a great opportunity for people around the world to uplift the vision of love for humankind,” he said.

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