Somali woman wins Nansen Refugee Award


mama Hawa wins the 2012 nansen refugee award for exceptional work for refugees and idpsMama Hawa from Somalia has been awarded the 2012 Nansen Refugee Award for her exceptional work for Somali refugees and internally displaced persons. –Mama Hawa deserves great respect for her work supporting displaced women and girls in Somalia, a work performed under most challenging circumstances, says NRCs Secretary General Elisabeth Rasmusson.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced Tuesday that this year´s Nansen Refugee Laureate is Hawa Aden Mohamed, better known as Mama Hawa. She receives the award for her tireless and inspiring work for displaced women in Somalia, a country affected by decades of armed conflict. The award ceremony in Geneva on 1 October will be hosted by NRC together with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

– NRC congratulates Mama Hawa with this prestigious award. We know that women often are the worst affected by war, but women are not just victims of war; they must also be part of the solution. This years Nansen Refugee Award, like last year’s Nobel´s Peace Prize, acknowledges women’s important role in rebuilding a society, says Elisabeth Rasmusson.

Mama Hawa speaks to a group of internally displaced women at the Halabokhad settlement in Galkayo, Somalia. She believes that “illiteracy in women is the reason why they can’t demand their rights.” UNHCR / F. Juez / July, 2012

Mama Hawa has herself been a refugee, and returned to Somalia to help her fellow citizens. In 1999, she established an ambitious education program – the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development – in Puntland, north-eastern Somalia. In addition to providing education for displaced persons, the organisation actively lobbies against female genital mutilation and offers assistance to rape victims.

– Having been a refugee in Kenya, US and Canada, I was encouraged by seeing women all over the world participating in building their countries. I wanted the same for mine. I just couldn’t sit down and fold my hands after what I’d seen happen to girls and women in Somalia, says Mama Hawa.

Mama Hawa looks on as one of the girls finishes sewing a special sanitary kit at the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development (GECPD) training centre in Galkayo, Somalia. C. Nichonghaile/ August, 2012

Mama Hawa has always focused on girls’ education, because she believes Illiteracy in women is the reason why they cannot demand their rights.

-Mama Hawa has brought new hope to thousands of Somali girls and women who have been affected by violence or forced to flee their homes in war-torn Somalia, says Rasmusson.

Rasmusson adds that she believes the award comes at a crucial time in Somalia’s history, referring to the historic election of Somalia’s new president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was inaugurated on Sunday 16 September.

-The needs in Somalia are still overwhelming. One million Somalis live as refugees outside Somalia and 1,3 million are displaced within the country. However, the Somali population is facing a window of opportunity. The country now needs heroes like Mama Hawa, who can ensure that the opportunities are being utilised, says Rasmusson.