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May 2013

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Spotlight: The 2013 Voices of Courage Luncheon

On May 2, more than 400 people gathered for the Women’s Refugee Commission’s 2013 Voices of Courage awards luncheon. This year’s theme was “Disabled. Displaced. Determined.”

Dahabo Hassan Maow and Atim Caroline Ogwang, two young refugee women leaders with disabilities, were honored for their work to advance the rights of displaced persons with disabilities. The Government of Australia (represented by Ambassador Gary Quinlan, Australia’s ambassador to the UN in New York) was also recognized for its international leadership in disability inclusion in the humanitarian sector.
Throughout the luncheon, speakers emphasized the need for the humanitarian community to change the way it approaches issues of disability inclusion. “It’s not about changing people with disabilities,” said Executive Director Sarah Costa in her opening comments. “It’s about changing the way we, humanitarian actors, design our programs and services, so that they are inclusive and accessible to ALL people.”

Award presenters included Deogratias Niyizonkiza, a former refugee and founder of Village Health Works in Burundi, Charlotte V. McClain-Nhlapo, Coordinator of USAID’s Office for Disability and Inclusive Development, and Sandra Uwiringiy’imana, an 18-year-old high school senior and former refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition to presenting an award, Sandra captivated the audience with a beautiful song.

The luncheon also featured a moving tribute to WRC founder Catherine O’Neill, who passed away in December, presented by WRC’s vice chair emerita Jurate Kazickas.

“Catherine taught all of us to be brave, never to be intimidated by naysayers, to fight for the righteousness of our cause,” said Kazickas, as images of Catherine’s life and family were projected on a screen behind her.

“[She] left us much too soon, but what a gift she gave the world. Millions of women have benefited from her vision and legacy, and millions more will be helped through the continuing work of the Women’s Refugee Commission.”

Guests at the luncheon, held at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City, included UN ambassadors, government officials, international business leaders, young professionals and press. In addition to raising awareness about the needs and rights of displaced women and girls with disabilities, the event raised over $500,000 to support the WRC’s work with refugees around the world.

See photos of the event here.
Watch video of the event here.


Voices of Courage Honorees Receive Press Attention


2013 Voices of Courage Honorees Dahabo Hassan Maow and Atim Caroline Ogwang have received attention from the media in the wake of the luncheon, and have shared their inspiring stories with a wide range of press.

Voice of America radio interviewed Atim Caroline Atang about growing up as a deaf refugee girl in Uganda, life in the new nation of South Sudan and her work with the organization she founded, Southern Sudan Deaf Development Concern. Emma Pearce, WRC's disability program officer, was also interviewed for the show about the importance of providing education for children with disabilities. Listen to the interview here.

The Daily Beast featured an article on Dahabo, “Somalia's Champion for Displaced Girls: Dehabo Hassan Maow.” And the Christian Science Monitor published a piece on Caroline and Dahabo, entitled “Two extraordinary African women tell their stories.”

The Women’s Refugee Commission has also published interviews with the honorees, as well as their speeches on our Luncheon page.


Fashion for the Greater Good: Maiden Nation Partnership Benefits the WRC


The Women’s Refugee Commission has partnered with ethical fashion company Maiden Nation, to sell beautiful scarves created by the Maisha Collective, which was founded by Voices of Courage honoree Dahabo Hassan Maow. From May 2 - June 20, 10% of proceeds will be donated to the Women's Refugee Commission.

Maiden Nation is a new company that seeks to empower women through ethical fashion. Its designers are of the moment, its products are ethically sourced and profits are reinvested into women’s entrepreneurship projects.

The Maisha Collective, a project of Heshima Kenya, empowers refugee girls and young women from DR Congo, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan and Burundi with economic opportunities to rebuild their lives with peace and dignity. By managing a business collective that designs and produces a line of unique hand-dyed scarves, participants gain life-long business and marketing skills that develop their confidence and prepare them for future independence.

To learn more and purchase a scarf, click here.


Making History: The WRC Achieves Victories for Women and Children in Immigration Reform Efforts


On April 17, the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill, “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013”, was introduced in the Senate. By May 7, approximately 300 amendments had been filed by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. On May 9, the Committee began considering amendments.

The WRC's Migrant Rights and Justice Program is one of several groups directly responsible for making sure that the 867 page bill protects women and children. Our staff in Washington, D.C., have been working overtime to read the document and analyze amendments. They are playing a leadership role in key women’s and children’s coalitions and are making recommendations to Senators regarding which parts of the bill will have a positive impact on women and children, and which will have a negative impact.

Read more about the Migrant Rights and Justice Team’s recent victories here.


Meet Dhana Lama, Program Coordinator


By Stephanie Selekman, Communications Intern

Periodically, we’ll be featuring interviews with members of our staff talking about how they got into the field and what inspires them. Here we highlight Dhana Lama, Program Coordinator. Dhana supports the entire program staff of the Women’s Refugee Commission with a wide range of administrative and logistical services, ensuring that operations run flawlessly. In addition to being essential to the success of the organization, Dhana is an adventurer – he’s gone bungee jumping, white water rafting and more. Read on to learn more…

Where are you from originally?
I am from Nepal—the country of Mount Everest and the birth place of Lord Buddha. I moved to the U.S. in 2009 due to political instability in my home country.

How did you get involved with the WRC?
After I moved to the U.S., I was living in New York City and connected with the International Rescue Committee. I was familiar with the organization because I had worked near their office in Kathmandu. I have to thank Sid Haouchine and Cassy Cox from IRC who introduced me to WRC and its amazing work to improve the lives and defend the rights of refugees and internally displaced women, children and youth. I joined the Commission as Program Coordinator in September 2011, which is my current position today.

Read the full interview with Dhana here!