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London celebrates the outstanding contributions of extraordinary refugee women

News Stories, 06 March 2014

LONDON, United Kingdom, UNHCR - UNHCR was last night proud to co-host the Women on the Move Awards, celebrating the achievements of refugee and migrant women across the UK in the run up to International Women’s Day on 8 March.

Part of the WOW (Women of the World) Festival on London’s Southbank and presented by Samira Ahmed and Livia Firth, the Women on the Move Awards were held to recognise the outstanding contributions that refugee women make to empowering and integrating their communities. These women left their homes and loved ones, fleeing war and persecution, and managed not only to build a new life for themselves and their families, but also to support and inspire people and communities across the UK.

Lilian Seenoi, a refugee from Kenya, was recognised as Woman of the Year for her work setting up the only migrant forum in Derry- Londonderry, from her kitchen table. Lilian sought asylum in the UK after her work rescuing young girls from early marriage put her life in danger. Her work in Northern Ireland now brings together diverse migrant groups and local communities who have suffered years of tension.

Speaking at the ceremony, Lilian said: ‘I have witnessed how fear creates boundaries, how boundaries create hate and how hate only serves the oppressors. I do understand that migrants and non-migrants are interconnected. When the rights of migrants are denied, the rights of citizens are at risk. Dignity has no nationality.’

The award for Young Woman of the Year was given to Tatiana Garavito who, since fleeing Colombia at the age of 18, has worked tirelessly on behalf of exploited workers from the Latin American community in London. Tatiana said: ‘Migrant women are not usually recognised for our hard work but instead very much portrayed as second-class citizens and for taking advantage of the system. This is a great platform to expose who we really are and what we really do.’

The ceremony also celebrated outstanding media coverage of the protection needs of refugee and migrant women. This year the Media Award (Print) went to A.A. Gill for his series of articles on refugees in DRC, Jordan and Lampedusa published in The Sunday Times Magazine.  Accepting his award, AA Gill said: ‘In Congo I realised a truth I’ve known all my life. Whilst women are often victims, they are also often the catalyst for making things better.’

The Media Award (Broadcast) recognised Sue Lloyd-Roberts and James Clayton for their BBC Newsnight film on women fleeing female genital mutilation. Special recognition was given to the Evening Standard, for its consistent reporting and campaigning work on female genital mutilation.

A special jury award was was made to Diana Nammi, Director of the UK-based Iranian Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, for her courageous work to protect vulnerable women from so-called ‘honour’ killing. The Champion award was given to the AIRE Centre, which for twenty years has helped ensure that individuals and families benefit from the rights they are entitled to under European law.

UNHCR’s Representative to the UK Roland Schilling said: ‘These awards are a humbling reminder of how refugees contribute to the towns and cities where they live, how they bring people together and create an environment of understanding and friendship. The awards also highlight Britain’s proud history and continuing openness to providing a safe haven for people fleeing persecution from all around the world.’

This is the first year that UNHCR has hosted the awards, together with partners Migrants’ Rights Network and The Forum.

By Laura Padoan

Find out more about this year's winners:

Woman of the Year Award Winner Lilian Seenoi

Special Jury Award Winner Diana Nammi

Young Woman of the Year Award Winner Tatiana Garavito

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