GENEVA, Sept 18 Hawa Aden Mohamed won the United
Nations refugee agency's Nansen Refugee Award on Tuesday for her
work in helping thousands of Somali women and girls, many of
them rape victims, start new lives in their battered homeland.
Mohamed, 63, is a former Somali refugee who returned from
safety in Canada to her war-torn country in 1995, launching an
education programme in Puntland to shelter and train Somalis who
have fled war, famine and violence, it said.
"When Hawa Aden Mohamed rescues a displaced girl, a life is
turned around," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio
Guterres said in a statement.
Known as "Mama Hawa", she founded the Galkayo Education
Centre for Peace and Development which has assisted more than
215,000 displaced and victims of violence since 1999, it said.
"In a society like Somalia, it's very often that a woman or
a girl is raped and they are severely marginalised thereafter.
So what she has done is given them is a home, a new start, hope
for a new life and their dignity back," UNHCR spokeswoman
Melissa Fleming told a news briefing.
Young Somali boys also receive vocational training in
carpentry and welding to keep them off the streets and avoid
them falling prey to criminal or armed groups, the agency said.
Somalia's new president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office on
Sunday, calling for an end to terrorism and piracy in a nation
mired in conflict for more than two decades. More than two
million people have been displaced.
Recent laureates include the late U.S. Senator Edward
Kennedy for sponsoring asylum legislation and former British
soldier Chris Clark for removing mines in Lebanon, allowing
displaced people to return home after Israel's 2006 invasion.
Mohamed, currently in hospital in Kenya recovering from
surgery, is expected to attend the awards ceremony in Geneva on
Oct. 1, Fleming said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Jason Neely)