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2014 Laureate

Butterflies with New Wings Building a Future

"The fight is to fight indifference. One way of protesting is not to keep our mouths shut." - Ms. Mery Medina, member of Butterflies

The 2014 winner of UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award is Butterflies with New Wings Building a Future, a group of courageous women that work tirelessly to help displaced survivors of sexual abuse reclaim their lives in Buenaventura, one of the most violent cities in Colombia.

Butterflies with New Wings Building a Future
©UNHCR / L. Zanetti

Illegal armed groups are imposing a reign of terror in Buenaventura as they battle for territory and drug smuggling routes. Tragically, they often target women and girls to demonstrate their power and to intimidate communities. Rape, torture, kidnapping and assassinations are destroying lives and tearing families apart. The members of Butterflies are taking a stand against this horrifying situation.

They are a driving force in raising awareness about the high levels of violence against women in the area. Despite attracting the attention of illegal armed groups, they organize protests, marching the streets of Buenaventura crying out “No more abuse of women” - determined to break down walls of fear and silence.

Many of the members of Butterflies have been forcibly displaced themselves as a result of the armed conflict and have lost family members. Some are also survivors of domestic and sexual violence. It is their shared experiences that push them to continue despite the danger. Ms. Gloria Amparo, Ms. Maritza Asprilla Cruz and Ms. Mery Medina are three of more than 100 volunteers who put themselves at great personal risk to support abused and traumatized women, who otherwise would have nowhere to turn.

On foot, motorbike and public transport, they go into the most dangerous neighbourhoods to help women access medical and psychological care, and to accompany them to report crimes. Through regular workshops they also teach women practical skills to empower them economically. Since 2010, Butterflies has impacted the lives of more than one thousand women and their families.

Butterflies’ representatives Gloria Amparo, Maritza Asprilla Cruz and Mery Medina will accept the award on behalf of Butterflies at UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award Ceremony.

Read more stories about Butterflies and the women they assist: stories.unhcr.org