Actress Juliet Stevenson and writer and journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown will tonight host the Migrant and Refugee Women’s Awards in London.
The event which also marks the International Women’s Day, will take place from 18:00 to 20:00 at the Royal Festival Hall.
Last autumn a group of organisations that supports migrants, refugees and women joined forces to launch an award that would honour inspirational migrant and refugee women improving the lives of people and communities across London.
This year's winner is Nazek Ramadan, founder of Migrant Voice. Two honorary awards will be given to Luljeta Nuzi, founder of Shpresa Programme for the Albanian speaking community and Clara Osagiede, London Underground RMT Secretary for Cleaners.
“Women cross borders to come to the UK for many reasons; many of them come fleeing human rights abuses. They have often faced great challenges to get here and further challenges once they arrive here in our asylum and immigration system. Yet their courage and resilience is so often remarkable. The leadership many provide at the grassroots to others is an inspiration, and it's wonderful to be able to celebrate this," said Natasha Walter, author of “The New Feminism and Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism”, and director of Women for Refugee Women.
Winner Nazek Ramadan came to London from Lebanon 26 years ago. She had a young family and their life in Beirut was constantly disrupted by war and fighting. After coming to London, she eventually completed a degree in Politics and volunteered in a supplementary school and at the Refugee Arrivals Project.
Her career path eventually led her to establish Migrant Voice, an organisation that works to promote authentic voices of migrants and refugees in the media.
“I lived in the war for eight years. It’s not that we fled at the first bullet, you live on hope and hope that things will improve… once we had children it meant we needed to leave – they’re stuck in school and the shelling starts and you can’t go and get them…at that time anybody who could leave the country, left,” said Nazek.
Zrinka Bralo of the Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum emphasised the importance of recognising such inspirational figures. “Our aim is to honour these exceptional leaders and raise the profile of their work. We are hoping to do this every year and highlight the challenges these brave women and their communities face and the contributions they make.”
Zrinka believes that all can learn from these women’s inspiring stories. “Despite many accomplishments, women’s voices are still often marginalised. They possess a unique perspective and have knowledge about a specific set of concerns that must be represented. Migrant and refugee women must have opportunities to participate in political processes, the economy and civil society as equals and their needs must be taken into consideration by authorities making decisions about their lives,” said Zrinka.