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Congolese nun named winner of world's top refugee award
Press Releases, 17 September 2013
UNHCR Announces 2013 Nansen Refugee Award Laureate
Geneva, 17 September, 2013 – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today announces that this year's Nansen Refugee Prize is being awarded to Sister Angelique Namaika, who works in the remote north east region of Democratic Republic of the Congo with survivors of displacement and abuse by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).
Sister Angélique, through her Centre for Reintegration and Development, has helped transform the lives of more than 2,000 women and girls who have been forced from their homes and abused, mainly by the LRA. Many of those she helps recount stories of abduction, forced labour, beatings, murder, rape and other human rights abuses.
Her one-on-one approach helps them recover from the trauma and damage. On top of the abuse they have suffered, these vulnerable women and girls are often ostracized by their own families and communities because of their ordeal.
It takes a special kind of care to help them heal and to pick up the pieces of their lives. Sister Angélique does this by helping them learn a trade, start a small business or go back to school. Testimonies from these women show the remarkable effect she has had on helping turn around their lives, with many affectionately calling her "mother."
The announcement of the 2013 Nansen prize coincides with the release of a report about life for those displaced by LRA violence. Since 2008, hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee in DRC's north-eastern province of Orientale – in some cases several times. Today, an estimated 320,000 of them are still living in displacement. The report, produced by UNHCR and the IDMC (Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre), highlights why LRA violence has created such severe and long-lasting trauma for both the abductees and the hundreds of thousands of people still too afraid to return home.
Sister Angélique herself was displaced by the violence in 2009 while living in the town of Dungu, in Orientale Province. She knows the pain of fleeing one's home. It is part of what drives her to work day in and day out to reach all those in need.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres commended this year's laureate, "Sister Angélique works tirelessly to help women and girls who are extremely vulnerable due to their trauma, poverty and displacement. The challenges are massive, which makes her work all the more remarkable – she doesn't allow anything to stand in her way."
Working in a location where electricity, running water and paved roads are scarce, Sister Angélique's work is exceptional. Although she lacks proper tools and her resources are almost non-existent Sister Angélique does not allow herself to be deterred. She has made it her life's work to ease the suffering of these uprooted women and girls – to give them renewed hope for the future.
Guterres continued, "These women's lives have been shattered by brutal violence and displacement. Sister Angélique has proven that even one person can make a huge difference in the lives of families torn apart by war. She is a true humanitarian heroine."
Responding to the announcement, the new laureate said: "It is difficult to imagine how much the women and girls abused by the LRA have suffered. They will bear the scars of this violence for their whole lives. This award will mean more displaced people in Dungu can get the help they need to restart their lives. I will never stop doing all I can to give them hope, and the chance to live again."
Sister Angélique will receive the Nansen Refugee Award and the Nansen Medal at a ceremony in Geneva on September 30. The event will feature a keynote speech from best-selling author Paulo Coelho and musical performances by British singer-songwriter Dido, Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna and Grammy-nominated Malian musicians, Amadou and Mariam.
Following the ceremony, Sister Angélique will travel to Rome, where she will be received at the Vatican by Pope Francis on 2 October before proceeding to Paris, Brussels and Oslo for other meetings.
A full media package including professional photos and video of Sister Angélique and the work she does available at: http://unhcr.org/nansenmaterials
- For Interviews with Sister Angélique and for queries on why she was chosen
- Stephen Pattison, Pattison@unhcr.org, + 41 22 739 82 75
- Celine Schmitt (in DR Congo), firstname.lastname@example.org, + 243 817009484
- For questions about the Nansen Refugee Award
- Leigh Foster, email@example.com, +41 22 739 7659
- For information about the artists
- Alison Tilbe, firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 (0) 207 759 8125
- For general UNHCR media inquiries
- Adrian Edwards email@example.com, +41 79 557 9120
About the Nansen Refugee Award
Established in 1954, the award recognizes extraordinary humanitarian work on behalf of refugees, internally displaced or stateless people. The award includes a commemorative medal and a US$100,000 monetary prize. In close consultation with UNHCR, the laureate uses the monetary prize to fund a project that compliments their existing work.
For more information: www.unhcr.org/nansen
The Nansen Refugee Award Ceremony
The Nansen Refugee Award ceremony is the most visible element of the broader Nansen Refugee Award programme. The ceremony acts as an advocacy platform which allows UNHCR and its partners to raise awareness and support for the refugee cause. It not only provides a forum for informal diplomacy among high-ranking officials, but also an opportunity to highlight the extraordinary humanitarian work of those who go beyond the call of duty on behalf of refugees, internally displaced or stateless people. The ceremony is underwritten by UNHCR and its partners; the Swiss and Norwegian governments, the Norwegian Refugee Council and the IKEA Foundation. The ceremony will be hosted by Isabelle Kumar of Euronews.