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Colombian Women's Rights Network to receive UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award tonight

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Colombian Women's Rights Network to receive UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award tonight

29 September 2014

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres will present the Colombian women's right network Red Mariposas de Alas Nuevas Construyendo Futuro - or Butterflies with New Wings Building a Future (Butterflies), the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award tonight at a ceremony in Geneva.

Based in the Pacific port city of Buenaventura, Butterflies, who are all volunteers, risk their lives to help survivors of forced displacement and sexual abuse. So far they have helped over 1000 women and their families.

The Nansen Refugee Award is UNHCR's top humanitarian honour. Since Eleanor Roosevelt became the first winner in 1954, more than 60 individuals, groups and organizations have been recognized for outstanding and dedicated work on behalf of displaced people.

Butterflies will be represented at the ceremony by three women; Gloria Amparo, Maritza Asprilla Cruz and Mery Medina.

Colombia is second only to Syria in the number of internally displaced people globally. Nowhere in the country is the devastation of the five decade armed conflict felt as acutely as in Buenaventura. This industrial port city has some of the highest rates of violence and displacement due to escalating rivalries between illegal armed groups and women are often their targets. The groups target women and children to demonstrate their power and strength and frequently torture, rape or kill to exact revenge.

Drawing on only the most modest of resources, the women go about their work on foot or by bus or bicycle. As cautiously as they can, they move through the most dangerous neighbourhoods to help women access medical care and report crimes. It is this work deep inside the communities that helps them reach the most vulnerable women, but also brings with it danger and threats from the illegal armed groups.

"These women are doing extraordinary work in the most challenging of contexts," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres." Each day they seek to heal the wounds of the women and children of Buenaventura and in doing so put their own lives at risk. Their bravery goes beyond words".

UNHCR's special envoy Actress Angelina Jolie has praised the work of the winners. As a staunch advocate for ending impunity for sexual violence in conflict, Jolie says Butterflies' work is life-saving.

"The Mariposas draw on their strengths as women to help thousands of vulnerable people who would otherwise have no rights and no protection. By winning this award, I hope it helps more people everywhere to understand that we have to change attitudes to sexual violence, and to help end impunity for these crimes," said Ms. Jolie.

The Award ceremony will feature a keynote speech from UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie (on video) and musical performances by UNHCR supporters, Swedish-Lebanese singer-songwriter Maher Zain and Malian singer-songwriter Rokia Traoré. The Mexican acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela will also perform at the ceremony.

Journalists can access a multi-media package through this link:

The package contains:

  • B-roll for broadcasters.
  • A full photo story of Butterflies and their work and biographies of Gloria Amparo, Maritza Asprilla Cruz and Mery Medina.
  • Case studies of abused and displaced women helped by Butterflies.
  • A report by the Norwegian Refuge Council showing that sexual violence is systematic and widespread in Colombian conflict
  • Further information about the Nansen Refugee Award.

Following the ceremony this page will be updated with video and photographs from the ceremony.

About the Nansen Refugee Award

In its 60th year, 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.

Nominations are now open for the 2015 Award. For more information:

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.

For interview requests, further information on the Nansen Refugee Award and to attend the ceremony

  • In Geneva, Stephen Pattison, [email protected]. Tel: +41 22 739 8275 / Mob: +41 (0)795008774
  • In Geneva, Babar Baloch, [email protected] Tel: +41 22 739 8830 / Mob: +41 (0)795570106
  • In Geneva, Francis Markus, [email protected] Tel: +41 22 739 8396 / Mob: +41 (0)793011966

For further information on the artists performing at the Nansen Award Ceremony