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UNHCR names Nansen Refugee Award regional winners


UNHCR names Nansen Refugee Award regional winners

The everyday heroes from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East are being honoured for their outstanding humanitarian work.
21 September 2020
Jordan. Reading advocate is Nansen Refugee Award Regional Winner for MENA
Rana Dajani, the Jordanian founder and director of We Love Reading, is photographed in a park in Richmond, Virginia.

GENEVA – 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 refugee footballer using her love for sport to get refugee children off the streets and into the classroom.

These four everyday heroes who go to extraordinary lengths to help those in great need have been selected as the regional winners of this year’s Nansen Refugee Award. The winners, all of whom are women, were selected from across four continents for their humanitarianism and efforts to improve the lives of forcibly displaced people.

Each in her own way, has launched grassroots initiatives to change the lives of people within their communities including refugees and internally displaced people uprooted by conflict in South Sudan, East Ukraine, Syria and Afghanistan.

Their service and dedication to the protection of forcibly displaced people reflects the essence and spirit of Fridtjof Nansen – the first High Commissioner for Refugees for whom the award is named. Nansen was a renowned scientist, polar explorer and statesman, and was know for his perseverance in the face of adversity. The annual humanitarian prize seeks to shed light on and honour heroes within our communities who go above and beyond the call of duty to help refugees, displaced or stateless people.

From hundreds of nominations, a winner is selected to represent each region in addition to honouring a single global laureate. Through this award, unsung heroes are celebrated for their extraordinary efforts to change and in many cases save the lives of forcibly displaced people.

This year’s regional winners for Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East are:

  • Africa: Sabuni Francoise Chikunda, a refugee school teacher from the Democratic Republic of the Congo living in Uganda. She is the founder and chair of The Women’s Centre helping victims and survivors of Sexual and Gender Based Violence. 
  • Asia: An Afghan refugee living in Iran is the co-founder of the Youth Initiative Fund project, a community-based initiative which seeks to get refugee children in Iran off the streets and into education.
  • Europe: Tetiana Barantsova, from Ukraine is a human rights activist and the co-founder of Luhansk oblast NGO "AMI-Skhid" (Association of Women, Youth, Families with Disabilities of Eastern Donbas), an NGO which advocates for change and protection of the rights of people with disabilities.
  • Middle East: Dr. Rana Dajani, from Jordan, is a scientist and professor of molecular cell biology founded the We Love Reading project. The initiative aims to make books and reading accessible to children in every community including refugee camps.

The overall winner of the Nansen Refugee Award – who is not among those honoured today – will be revealed on 1 October. The prize will be presented in an online ceremony on 5 October.

Each regional winner will be honoured with a special Nansen certificate and events will be held to celebrate their extraordinary efforts in cooperation with the Swiss and Norwegian embassies in the countries where they work.

The Swiss and Norwegian Governments are UNHCR’s partners in the Nansen Refugee Award project.