Announcement: Somalia's Hawa Aden Mohamed awarded 2012 Nansen Refugee prize

Briefing Notes, 18 September 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 18 September 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is pleased to announce this morning that Hawa Aden Mohamed, the founder and director of the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development (GECPD) in Puntland, north-eastern Somalia, is the winner of the 2012 Nansen Refugee Award. Hawa Aden Mohamed is a former refugee who chose to return to Somalia in 1995. There, she launched an ambitious education programme to assist people uprooted by Somalia's persistent conflict and recurring droughts. Her visionary work has transformed the lives of thousands of displaced women and girls, who are among the most vulnerable members of Somali society and in many cases are grappling with the trauma of marginalization, abuse and rape.

Hawa Aden Mohamed is being given this award in recognition of her exceptional, tireless and inspiring humanitarian work for Somalia's refugee and displaced girls and women, work performed under incredibly difficult and challenging circumstances.

A few days ago, Hawa Aden Mohamed was hospitalized for surgery. She is recovering, and for this reason her availability for media in connection with today's announcement of the prize is affected. We hope for your understanding. We hope that she will be sufficiently recovered and well to attend the Nansen Award prize ceremony in Geneva, which is scheduled for October 1st.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Kenya, UNHCR Somalia Office: Andy Needham on mobile +254 733 120 931
  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 91 20
  • Melissa Fleming on number +41 79 557 91 22
  • Andrej Mahecic on mobile +41 79 200 7617
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More than 400 people attended the annual presentation in Geneva in October 1, 2012 of UNHCR's Nansen Refugee Award. This year's inspirational winner from Somalia, Hawa Aden Mohamed, was unable to attend for health reasons, but she sent a video message. In the former refugee's absence, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presented the award and Nansen medal to her sister, Shukri Aden Mohamed.

The 63-year-old humanitarian, educator and women's rights advocate, widely known as "Mama" Hawa, was honoured for her extraordinary service - under extremely difficult conditions - on behalf of refugees and the internally displaced, mainly women and girls but also including boys.

Above all she has been recognized for her work - as founder and director of the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development in Somalia's Puntland region - in helping to empower thousands of displaced Somali women and girls, many of whom are victims of rape. The centre provides secondary education as well as life skills training.

The packed event also included an address by Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, co-winner of last year's Nobel Peace Prize, and a video tribute to Mama Hawa as well as performances from UNHCR Honorary Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador and classical singer, Barbara Hendricks, and up and coming Swiss musician Bastian Baker.

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