Sharjah is committed to supporting refugees: Sultan Al Qasimi

June 20, 2021 / 3:52 PM
Sharjah24: “Sharjah is committed to supporting refugees around the world by extending a strong and reliable helping hand reflected in several sustainable humanitarian programmes that mirror the ethos of our cultural project”, said His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, during a virtual event held to honour the winner of the fifth annual Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support (SIARA 2021).
“Sharjah will always be steadfast with building on the values of cooperation and partnership to create a world where love and justice will always prevail. In our religion, as in our Arab culture, standing by the vulenarable and people in need is a duty, not a choice. It is also a daily responsibility and not a sporadic reaction”, the Sharjah Ruler continued at the virtually-held awarding ceremony of SIARA’s 2021 edition organized by The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), a Sharjah-based global humanitarian charity, in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and held on Sunday, June 20, which is marked globally as World Refugee Day – an annual observance designed to honour refugees from around the world.   

The event witnessed the participation of Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mariam Al Hammadi, Director, TBHF and senior officials.

At the awarding ceremony, which was facilitated by renowned Arab media personality, Maysoon Azzam, His Highness noted: “Undoubtedly, we share these religious and cultural values with all nations and cultures worldwide because helping the less fortunate is a core human value rooted in every culture, and are close to the hearts of all individuals. This leads us to discussing the significance of humanitarian institutions who have been successful in consolidating their intent, energies and capabilities to design sustainable projects that have changed the lives of thousands... even millions of refugees and needy people worldwide.” 

One such entity on which SIARA turned the spotlight on this year with its AED 500,000 (US$ 136,000) cash prize is RefuSHE, a Nairobi-based humanitarian agency founded in 2008 to address the significant, unmet need for child and girl-focused refugee services in Kenya. 

Reiterating the fact that by extending support to those in need, communities ultimately create a bright future for all, His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Al Qasimi opined: “Societies are shaped by values, and people’s actions determine what these values are. Those who carry out good deeds and sincerely help those in need, contribute to shaping a culture of empathy, compassion and cohesion in their communities. Based on this tenet, humanitarian organizations deserve every bit of society’s support and must be provided everything they need to execute key humanitarian programmes and initiatives. It is because these entities open the door of hope for the forcibly displaced and are a trusted place for anyone seeking to carry out humanitarian work.”


RefuSHE’s leading contributions in child and girl-focused refugee development highlighted by SIARA 2021 as COVID-19 leaves them more vulnerable than ever  

The onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a severe impact on children, girls and women whose challenges and hardships have further intensified in the wake of a global public health crises. It is in light of these altered circumstances that the SIARA selection committee has chosen a girl- and woman-centric humanitarian organization from Kenya, ‘RefuSHE’ to honour at SIARA 2021.   

Since inception in 2008, RefuSHE’s mission has been to protect, educate and empower orphaned, unaccompanied and separated refugee girls, children and young women aged 13 – 21 in the greater lakes region of East Africa, helping them build healthier and more resilient futures for themselves and their children. Through its trauma-informed and girl-centric interventions and long-term programmes, the Nairobi-based non-profit has met a range of needs – from urgent safety, shelter and healthcare to economic empowerment, vocational training, mental health initiatives and livelihoods strengthening, RefuSHE has successfully made a sustainable impact on the lives of vulnerable, forcibly displaced girls and women, by turning them into empowered, confident individuals fully equipped to reintegrate into society, and build happy and secure lives for themselves and their families. 

RefuSHE has supported over 5,000 direct beneficiaries, and around 20,000 beneficiaries in all, including the children of some refugees. Several among them have been resettled in countries like US and Canada.  

SIARA 2021 highlight: A TBHF–NAMA special grant of AED 1.1 (US$ 300,000) awarded to three non-profits, INARA, The Lotus Flower and RefuSHE 

In recognition and appreciation of the outstanding past work and future projects of three entities shortlisted for SIARA 2021, namely, RefuShe from Kenya; International Network for Aid Relief and Assistance (INARA), which works for forcibly displaced children and youth in Lebanon and Turkey; and The Lotus Flower from Kurdistan, Iraq, which economically empower vulnerable women and girls at the grass roots through innovative projects,TBHF and UAE-based women’s empowerment entity, NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA), have collaborated to create an AED 1.1 Million 

(US$ 300,000) special grant, which has been divided evenly among the three chosen non-profits.

Filippo Grandi: TBHF has done tremendous work in providing life-saving assistance to refugees and host communities during times of crises

Established in 2017, the Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support (SIARA) honours humanitarian outfits across Asia, the Middle East and Africa and draws global attention to their outstanding efforts and initiatives in improving lives of refugee communities.

Highlighting the plight of the more than 80 million refugees and IDPs who currently require protection and assistance, Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said: “The SIARA ceremony not only allows us to reflect on their struggles and successes but also presents an opportunity to highlight the contributions of individuals and organizations who have dedicated their lives and their work to helping the world’s forcibly displaced.”

I am pleased to be alongside Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of TBHF, and the UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children,” he added noting that under Sheikha Jawaher’s leadership, TBHF has done tremendous work in providing life-saving assistance to refugees and host communities during times of crises. 

“In 2020 alone, TBHF responded with crucial aid in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Beirut blast, and the floods in Sudan. This year, TBHF was again amongst the first to respond to the devastating fire in the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh,” Grandi further noted. 

Noting that the pandemic has had a particularly devastating effect on women and girls, the UNHCR official said it was fitting that SIARA 2021 has been awarded to Kenya’s RefuSHE, an organization built on the principle that every young woman deserves an opportunity. “Their holistic programmes which seek to provide opportunities to refugee girls and promote their wellbeing at every level is crucial especially now during these times,” he concluded as he extended his sincere congratulations to the non-profit.

Mariam Al Hammadi: Everyone, regardless of their circumstances, has a right to live with dignity

The Big Heart Foundation Director, Mariam Al Hammadi, noted that the hundreds of entries SIARA receives every year from remarkable organizations worldwide, each with a story worth honouring and supporting, makes the selection process for TBHF rather tough. 

She added: “At SIARA, we firmly believe that outstanding humanitarian action is one that not only supports people, but also hones their talents and capabilities, helping them turn their dreams into tangible achievements despite the challenges they face. Hence, it is with great pleasure that we have chosen RefuSHE from Kenya as the winner of the fifth edition of the SIARA Award.” 

The non-profit’s “exceptional journey has brought hope to the lives of thousands of girls and women. It has empowered them with education, moral support and all the necessary tools to facilitate their transformation from refugees into engaged, productive members of their community”, she further noted, adding, “this award is the least we can do to express our appreciation of RefuSHE’s outstanding efforts, and to ensure the sustainability of its impact. They have managed to open a window of hope in these dark times – hope that everyone, regardless of their circumstances, has a right to live with dignity, and that it can  be achieved, with God's grace and human effort”.

Al Hammadi concluded her address by stressing on the importance of partnerships to promote philanthropy, which resulted in the creation of SIARA’s first-ever special grant to benefit three, not one, non-profit. “Sharjah, as you know, is deeply committed to working collaboratively in order to promote efforts to support human beings in distress. To this end, Nama Women Advancement Establishment has partnered with TBHF to fund this exceptional special grant, as the projects of the nominees align with NAMA’s vision to enable communities by empowering women, girls and youth,” Al Hammadi asserted. 

For the 2021 edition of SIARA, the selection process was supported and enhanced by a Selection Committee comprising TBHF and UNHCR representatives; Professor Kevin Mitchel, Chancellor of the American University of Sharjah; and Ms. Petrina Shee, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Dignity for Children Foundation, past winner of SIARA. Al Hammadi thanked the committee for facilitating the selection process of the winner and the special grantees through their careful screening and review of all 213 nominations this year. 

An elated Geoffrey Thige, CEO of “RefuSHE” accepted the AED 500,000 (US$136,000) SIARA award and TBHF–NAMA special grant of US$ 100,000 on behalf of RefuSHE, and said: “We are all ecstatic that after so many years of caring for refugees, we have been able to turn the spotlight on our efforts on a prestigious global platform. I am excited that organizations like TBHF and UNHCR are supporting humanitarian work for refugees. Thank you for bringing us and the work we do every day into the limelight”.

Renowned Arab media personality and Palestinian refugee, Maysoon Azzam, was the master of ceremonies at the virtually held SIARA 2021 event, and was seen relating her own life experiences as a young girl who was forcibly displaced along with her entire family. Talking about the journey of refugees in search of their dreams, Azzam commended the role of SIARA in promoting humanitarian efforts worldwide that presents refugees with the opportunities to succeed. 

The fifth annual edition of SIARA received 213 nominations from 41 countries across Asia, Middle East and Africa as the recipient of the AED 500,000-award. Held under the patronage of the Ruler of Sharjah, and his wife, HH Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of TBHF and UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children, SIARA 2021 has received 105 nominations from across Africa and 94 from Asia, representing 49 percent and 44 percent respectively of the total number of nominations.
June 20, 2021 / 3:52 PM

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