"Mama Hawa", a symbol of hope for Somali displaced people

Laurent Le Gouanvic

Blog post by Laurent Le Gouanvic

Oxfam International, Web Editor
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From Geneva’s prestigious “Bâtiment des Forces motrices”, where the 2012 Nansen Refugee Award ceremony was organized yesterday evening, it was quite hard to imagine the extremely difficult circumstances in which Hawa Aden Mohamed has been working since 1999, the year she co-founded the GECPD (Galkayo Education Center for Peace and Development), an Oxfam’s partner organization in Somalia.

However, “Mama Hawa”, as she’s known in Galkayo, was really the one supposed to be at the center of the stage, as the 2012 Nansen Refugee Award laureate – even if she was unable to receive her prize in person yesterday evening, for health reasons. Her sister, Shukri Aden Mohamed, represented her at this ceremony, which celebrated the amazing work she and her team have been doing for Somalia’s refugees and displaced people, and particularly girls and women. “I am very honored to receive this award, she said to the Oxfam team in Somalia just after she knew she would be given the Nansen Refugee Award, two weeks ago. “This award isn’t just for me, it is for all of us. We are very happy”.

A victorious women’s basketball team parade at the training centre Mama Hawa established in Galkayo, Somalia. Credit: UNHCR / F.Juez

As Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee (2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate) underlined, Mama Hawa is a “typical symbol of the grassroots women, millions of whom live across Africa”, able to “turn a tumble into a triumph”.

A former refugee herself, Hawa Aden Mohamed chose to return to her homeland, Somalia, in 1995, “where she launched an ambitious education program to assist those uprooted by the nation’s persistent conflict and recurring droughts”, as mentioned in a communique published on the UNHCR’s website.

Oxfam has established a partnership with Mama Hawa and GECPD since 2000 and has been supporting programs in education (including scholarships for girls), youth sports, HIV-AIDS and gender-based violence awareness-raising, and assistance to internally displaced people (IDPs). Since 2010, Oxfam has been supporting youth sports in Galkayo through the establishment of a youth center. 

Refugees and IDPs are quite rarely in the spotlight – even in an international city like Geneva, which hosts many humanitarian organizations. This award is a great opportunity to congratulate Hawa Aden, the GECPD and all their partners; to encourage all the refugees and IDPs who are struggling to survive and, despite huge hurdles, are still trying to study; and to say a big thank to everyone who, directly or indirectly, supports their extraordinary work!

Please leave your messages to Mama Hawa and her team in Somalia in comments below 

Read more

The Nansen Refugee Award website 

Food crisis and conflict in Somalia 

Oxfam’s work in Somalia 

Blog: Peace through youth sports in Somalia