(WNN) United Nations, Geneva, SWITZERLAND, WESTERN EUROPE: Bringing a window of optimism and confidence to displaced women and girls who have suffered greatly under war and conflict in the rural northeast region of the DRC – Democratic Republic of the Congo, a 46-year-old Roman Catholic nun named Sister Angélique Namaika has been chosen to receive the prestigious 2013 Nansen Refugee Award prize.
The prize is an award initiative of the UNHCR – UN Refugee Agency that gives honor and recognition to those who have made progress through their outstanding work that has directly helped to improve the lives of the forcibly displaced.
“Established in 1954, the Nansen Refugee Award is named after Fridtjof Nansen, the first High Commissioner for Refugees for the League of Nations,” outlined the UNHCR. “The Nansen Refugee Award, through its laureates, aims to showcase the values of perseverance and conviction in the face of adversity,” they continued.
Under intense and critical violence that includes child soldier abduction, sexual violence, looting, militia intimidation, extrajudicial executions and crimes against humanity the Uganda based Lord’s Resistance Army, known commonly as the LRA, has brought years of destruction upon people in its efforts to control the region.
Sister Angélique knows the destruction for those living in the surrounding regions of the the Orientale provincial town of Dungu has become less. But the hardship has not stopped. 319,844 people continue today to be displaced throughout the DRC.
“When I saw them coming out of the bush, displaced, having escaped atrocities, there faces seemed different to me,” said Sister Angélique describing the women and girls who had faced some of the most difficult circumstances under atrocities by the Lord’s Resistance Army. “But when I spend time with them doing these [vocational training] activities they say, ‘Sister, we want you to do this, we want this particular training’….this makes me smile because they understand now the importance of the work we do…” she continued.
With what has been estimated to be less than 300 militia members, the LRA has continued with 104 attacks on the DRC – Democratic Republic of the Congo region from January to June 2013 including 54 deaths and 154 abductions. According to UN OCHA – United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 30 of these attacks also occurred in the DRC during the month of March 2013 alone, the largest spike in LRA activity since January 2012.
With her award prize the Catholic nun with receive $100,000 to support her work to bolster the Centre for Reintegration and Development, which she founded.
“Sister Angélique Namaika, a Congolese Catholic nun, has demonstrated unwavering support to over 2,000 women and girls who were victims of abduction, abuse and rape, mainly by the brutal rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army,” said the UNHCR with the announcement of the decision to give Sister Angélique the prize.
The work to help women and girls includes basic literacy education, along with practical career training and small business support. The idea is to get girls, and women, to go back to school to improve their lives after years of marginalization and poverty due to displacement. Known locally as “Our Mother,” Sister Angélique’s work also continues to bring compassion and solace to those women and girls, and their families, who have suffered from the extreme sexual and gender-based violence in the region.
Sister Angélique herself was a victim of displacement in 2009 as violence spread across the town of Dungu.
“I consider Sister Angélique to be my mother,” said one young woman who was orphaned during years of conflict in the DRC.
“These women’s lives have been shattered by brutal violence and displacement. Sister Angélique has proven that even one person can make a huge difference in the lives of families torn apart by war,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. “She is a true humanitarian heroine.”
Going into remote areas to help the women and girls of rural communities Sister Angélique most often is seen riding a bicycle to reach those she is hoping to help. A staggering estimated number of 320,000 people are said to have fled the north-eastern province of Orientale in the DRC. Many today are still afraid to return as they have fled the region more than once when the LRA armies came to the region again.
“She became the remedy that appeased my heart,” said another woman, identified as Patricia by the UNHCR, as she described her relationship to Sister Angélique during an interview with a video film production crew in the region.
On September 30 the Nansen Refugee Award will honor Sister Angélique through a formal ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland. Following her time in Geneva the Sister will visit Rome for a personal one-on-one visit with Pope Francis in the Vatican on October 2.
“The [Nansen Award] event will feature a keynote speech from best-selling author Paulo Coelho and musical performances by British singer-songwriter Dido, Malaysian singer-songwriter, Yuna, and Grammy-nominated Malian musicians, Amadou and Mariam,” outlined the award’s host the UNHCR.
The 2013 winner of UNHCR`s Nansen Refugee Award is Sister Angelique Namaika, a Congolese nun, who works in the remote north east region of Democratic Republic of the Congo with survivors of displacement and abuse by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). She has helped over 2000 displaced women and girls who have suffered the most awful kidnapping and abuse, to pick up the pieces of their lives and become re-accepted by their communities.
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