Congolese refugee Furaha Ceru Olive (right) speaking with the Nansen Refugee Award regional winner for Africa, Francoise Sabuni Chikunda | Photo: UNHCR/Esther Ruth Mbabazi
Congolese refugee Furaha Ceru Olive (right) speaking with the Nansen Refugee Award regional winner for Africa, Francoise Sabuni Chikunda | Photo: UNHCR/Esther Ruth Mbabazi

Four women have been recognized by the UN refugee agency UNHCR for their grassroots efforts to help refugees and displaced people in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. For the first time ever, the regional Nansen winners were all women this year.

A refugee school teacher striving to empower rape survivors. A scientist and mother of four on a quest to make reading and learning accessible to refugee children. An activist fighting to protect the rights of displaced people with disabilities. And an aspiring footballer using her love for sports to get refugee children off the streets and into the classroom.

These are the women who were selected as the regional winners of this year's Nansen Refugee Awards. Every year, the UNHCR honors people and organisations who work to help refugees, as well as displaced and stateless people, with the award. It is named after Fridtjof Nansen -- the first UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Helping other refugees

In a press release, UNHCR said that the four women selected had all launched grassroots initiatives to change the lives of people within their communities -- among them refugees and internally displaced people from South Sudan, East Ukraine, Syria and Afghanistan.

The regional winner from Africa this year is Francoise Sabuni Chikunda. She is a refugee and a school teacher. She hails from the Democratic Republic of the Congo but is living in Uganda. She is the founder and chair of The Women's Center, which helps victims and survivors of sexual and gender based violence.

The regional winner for Asia is Rozma Ghafouri, an Afghan refugee living in Iran. She is the co-founder of the Youth Initiative Fund project, which seeks to get refugee children in Iran off the streets and into education.

The regional winner from Europe is Tetiana Barantsova from Ukraine. She is a human rights activist and the co-founder of the organization 'AMI-Skhid' (Association of Women, Youth, Families with Disabilities of Eastern Donbas), which advocates for people with disabilities.

The regional winner from the Middle East is Dr. Rana Dajani from Jordan. She is a scientist and professor of molecular cell biology who founded the 'We Love Reading' project. The initiative aims to make books and reading accessible to children in every community including refugee camps.

According to UNHCR, the four women were selected from over 200 nominees.

World winner to be announced Oct. 1

Every year, winners for the Nansen Award are selected from hundreds of nominations. There's not just regional winners, but also a single global laureate. Said global winner will be revealed on 1 October. The prize will be presented in a ceremony on 5 October. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the event will take place online.

 

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