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African activists share prestigious Sunhak Peace Prize

November 27, 2018

A Somali-born activist and supermodel who led the fight against the practice of female genital mutilation and a Nigerian physician who has taken on Africa’s food crisis through his work supporting small farmers will share this year’s third Sunhak Peace Prize and its $1 million award.

Waris Dirie, the daughter of Somalia nomads who became a fashion model, actress and the first U.N. special ambassador for the elimination of female genital mutilation, was cited for her work in publicizing the problem and improving the lives of hundreds of millions of African girls.

Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, 58, was honored for a three-decade career focused on agricultural innovation and food security in Africa, as a researcher, economist and as president of the African Development Bank since September 2015. He was awarded the 2017 World Food Prize, donating his $250,000 award to support young African farmers.

“Through the 2019 prize, we present ‘human rights and development of Africa’ as a future peace theme for the common destiny of mankind,” Hong Il Sik, chairman of the Sunhak Peace Prize Committee, said in announcing this year’s laureates in Cape Town, South Africa.

“The problems related to human rights and development in Africa are scars to the world’s conscience. These are tasks that all people of the world must work together to resolve,” Dr. Hong said.

The Sunhak Peace Prize, awarded every two years to individuals or groups who have contributed the peace and welfare of future generations, is one of the richest of its kind. It was established by the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification to honor the vision of the late Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon and his wife, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon.

Ms. Dirie, 53, a victim of female genital mutiliation herself as a girl, has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the issue and played a major role in the adoption of the 2003 Maputo Protocol, now ratified by nearly 40 countries calling for an end to FGM. She also started a foundation to raise money for schools and clinics in her native Somalia.

Ms. Dirie “has been leading the way in raising awareness of the violence of FGM, which has been conducted for thousands of years, and in establishing international laws to end this bad custom,” according to the committee citation.

Dr. Adesina’s varied career has taken him to the Rockefeller Foundation, to a stint as agriculture minister in the Nigerian government, and to his current service as the first Nigerian to head the African Development Bank.

“Over the past three decades, he has reformed African agriculture and improved the food supply for a hundred million people across the continent,” the committee statement said. “It is a great achievement that has propelled economic development in Africa.”

The winners will be honored in a ceremony in Seoul, South Korea, in February.

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