Finnish Refugee Man and Woman of the Year

The Finnish Refugee Council has nominated Bahar Mozaffari from Espoo the Refugee Woman of the Year, and Oulu-based Ramin Akhi the Refugee Man of the Year. The nominations were announced today at the Women of the World Festival held in Tampere.

”I want to encourage immigrant women to pursue independent lives, to discover their place in Finnish society and gain access to working life”, Bahar Mozaffari, 39, says.

Bahar came to Finland as a quota refugee in 2006. The economics-graduate was forced to flee from her former home country Iran due to political reasons, for she was an active member of a women’s organization. Today, she works as officer for Uusimaa region’s Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centre). Additionally, she has volunteered e.g. for women’s organization WILPF and as counselor for children’s activities.

The Refugee Man of the Year, Ramin Akhi, 30, is dentist and a postgraduate student in dentistry. He has been actively involved in student politics and in the Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations of Northern Finland. Akhi came to Finland in 2005 as a quota refugee from Cuba, where his family had fled from Afghanistan, Akhi’s country of origin.

With his own story, Akhi wishes to encourage especially youth with immigrant background to pursue higher education. In case of many immigrants, their educational path ends after upper secondary level, regardless of their potential.

”Being a refugee is not an obstacle, as Finland provides educational possibilities for all. Officials and teachers must push young people to chase their dreams”, he states.

Both Akhi and Mozaffari want to remind of the importance of engaging immigrants in their own integration and studies.

As the primary reason for Mazaffari’s and Akhi’s nomination, the board of the Refugee Council named their society-level activity. Both Refugees of the Year make outstanding examples of the fact that also adult immigrants coming to Finland can quickly proceed to working life, while simultaneously supporting other new Finns in their integration process.

The Refugees of the Year were announced at the Women on the Move Award gala in Tampere-talo on Saturday. The gala was organized by the Refugee Council and the Finland National Committee for UN Women as part of the weekend-long Women of the World Festival. In London, the equivalent festival is organized by the UNHCR. The Finnish Refugee Council is the UNHCR’s official representative for communication of refugee affairs in Finland.

Bahar Mozaffari’s selection as the Refugee Woman of the Year was proposed by Jaana Suokonautio from ELY Centre, and Aila Auvinen, board member of WILPF’s Finnish section.

Ramin Akhi was recommended as the Refugee Man of the Year by Hanna Määttä from ELY Centre for Northern Ostrobothnia, and Sohvi Hörkkö, professor of immunology from the University of Oulu.