Recieving the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity

Shamsa Abubakar Fadhil receives the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity in Abu Dhabi on 4 February 2023.


Under the coconut trees and by the sea shore, Fadhil has been counselling, caring for. and training youth, successfully pulling them out of lives of general violence, crime, and extremism.

Her work revolves around peace-building, justice, and reforms, and over the years, more than 10,000 youths initially trapped in a conflict with the law, society, and families—and with themselves—have been transformed.

I use dialogue only. I present myself as a mother to the unwanted human beings.I do not judge why they have opted for criminal life, but persuade a mindset change and where possible alternative livelihood skills,” says Fadhil, a Muslim woman whose work cut across the Christian and Muslim faiths.

I help reintegrate them into society and their families. I even make them sit, eat, and talk with the law enforcers. This approach is multi-sectorial since everybody has a part to play. We offer also spiritual nourishment to the reformed youths through pastors and sheikhs.”

For her work, Fadhil and the Community of SantEgidio – the Rome-based humanitarian association- were awarded the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity in Abu Dhabi on 4 February.

World leaders—including Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, and Antonio Guterres, the UN chief—are past recipients.

This award means more challenges and commitment for me. I have been given an amicable space to ensure I fulfil the objectives, mission and goals of the Zayed award for humanitarian fraternity,” she says, describing the accolade as a new beginning for her.

The annual award recognises individuals and entities across the world who lead by example, collaborating selflessly and tirelessly, to bridge divides and create real human connections. Honourees receive US$1 million.

The award is not about the money but the recognition and holding the fundamental aspects of the vision on human fraternity,” she explains.

Her work in peace-building began in 2014, when she created the Focus on Women and Youth in Coast Province for Political Development. She later became the first woman to chair the Peace and Security Committee in a sub–county known as Nyali in the coastal city of Mombasa.

While leading the committee in 2018, Fadhil pioneered a comprehensive campaign to reform 200 juvenile gangs involved in criminal activities in the coastal city.

It is this action that evolved into a broad campaign involving religious leaders, civic service, and government officials which has since seen tens of thousands of youths receive amnesty, counselling, and training after they abandoned criminal life.

Among other roles, Fadhil chairs the Mombasa Women of Faith Network, a group that is fostering interfaith relations, while countering challenges including early marriages, gender-based violence, and violent extremism.

She explains that interfaith peace-builders face a lot of challenges, including dealing with people who want to destroy humankind since they have the gadgets, resources, time, and all means.”

As a piece of advice to peace-builders anywhere in the world, she urges a collective responsibility.

If we are to create a nonviolent world with equal rights, we must begin with our children. We should change our ways,” she advises while warning that just around the corner, there is the risk of violence triumphing over peace and extremism triumphing over tolerance.

Learn more about Zayed Award for Human Fraternity