Amid a controversial Nobel Prize season that has been dominated by U.S. president, Donald Trump, and Swedish teen climate activist, Greta Thunberg, standing to potentially win, two Muslim women – Ilwad Elman from Somalia and Hajer Sharief from Libya – were also announced as nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize.

16-year-old Thunberg, who has spurred what has been referred to as a ‘climate change movement’ after skipping school as a call for action against global warming, has stolen the limelight on media since she emerged in 2018. Many environmental activists have criticised the attention that the media has given her, claiming it whitewashes the conversation on climate change, which, in reality, affects marginalised and indigenous communities – including brown and black populations – much more than it does a girl from Sweden.

Academics, researchers and lawmakers from around the world are allowed to submit nominations to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, who will then announce the winner – of this particular prize – on October 11th. The committee has received 301 nominations this year.

Both Elman and Sharief are peace activists, and were part of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s Extremely Together initiative, which brings together 10 young activists from around the world.

Elman doing fieldwork as she worked on a project building a police station - with the aim of creating jobs for youth - in Banadir, Somalia. Courtesy of Elman.

Elman, whose father was reportedly assassinated for his involvement in humanitarian work, has been working actively in the humanitarian and women’s rights sectors in Somalia, founding the country’s first rape crisis center for survivors of gender-based violence and abuse.

A pioneer of the human – and women’s – rights movement in Libya, Sharief has been involved in humanitarian work since witnessing the Libyan civil war of 2011 first-hand. She founded NGO Together We Build It, which aims to support a peaceful and democratic transition in Libya after the war, as well as co-started the 1325 Network project in 2013, which is a collection of human rights organisations and activists from across 30 cities in Libya.

Hajer Sharief delivering a TED Talk on how to use family dinner to teach politics in July. Photo courtesy of TEDx.

As two women of colour who have been directly involved in humanitarian movements and the crises they seek to address, the two are favoured to win, according to Bloomberg, which has reported that the two women topped the shortlist for potential winners in the annual predictions of the Peace Research Institute Oslo.