Educating girls changes the course of an entire society: Jawaher Al Qasimi - GulfToday

Educating girls changes the course of an entire society: Jawaher Al Qasimi

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Sheikha Jawaher: "We have spared no effort to continue to offer support to refugee girls and women in every way possible."

Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and Chairperson of The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF) has called on the international community to make education of refugee girls a top priority.


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Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher was addressing a private, all-women virtual panel session organised ahead of the unveiling of the overall winner of the 2020 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award recently by UNHCR, titled ‘Keeping refugee women and girls safe’, to draw further attention to the challenges facing forcibly displaced women and girls, and discuss how individuals and entities across the world can contribute to protecting their rights by offering to be part of the solution.

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Gillian Triggs.

The high-level discussions attended by Gillian Triggs, Assistant Secretary General, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, UNHCR, preceded the announcement of the overall winner of the 2020 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award. This edition of the annual humanitarian prize, given to individuals, groups or organisations for outstanding work with refugees, displaced and stateless people, has for the first time in its history announced an all-woman lineup of regional winners, emphasising their role as trailblazers of positive change in their societies.

Thanking the UNHCR for taking the initiative to host such an important dialogue, Her Highness said: “Educating girls and women changes the course of an entire society. Through our philanthropic and women’s support organisations, we have spared no effort to continue to offer support to refugee girls and women in every way possible. Let us continue to work on initiatives that raise awareness amongst refugee communities about the benefits of educating their girls; let us continue to strive build and rehabilitate schools for them and equip them with the needed educational tools, sustainable energy, and motivating classrooms. Most importantly, let us train and qualify female teachers who have the passion for giving back to members of their community.”

Addressing more than 70 global female leaders, the TBHF Chairperson added: “Women and children affected by the exceptional circumstances of their societies account for the highest percentage of the global refugee population.We must all share the responsibility of educating women around the world. By supporting them with education, we elevate their potential to rebuilding their lives, actively lead their communities towards progress, and lay the foundation for building a just, equitable and sustainable future for all nations around the world.”

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Zaheerah Bham Ismail.

Listing the effects of COVID-19 on women and children as they try to survive in extremely difficult situations as displaced persons or refugees, Gillian Triggs noted that while terrible tragedies have surrounded the pandemic, there have also been some heartening highlights. “One is that women refugees have also become frontline healthcare workers. They have been the first to take care of their families and have also gone out into their communities to assist.”

Other speakers at the high-profile event included Zaheerah Bham-Ismail, Chairperson of the Caring Women's Forum (CWF), founding member of the Islamic Charity Network in South Africa, and a member of the Women's Business Network of UNHCR; and Johannesburg-based UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Leanne Manas Menelaou.

The event also heard the voices of three refugee students based at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya who participated in an open session where they shared their views, ambitions, and aspirations for the future, and wholeheartedly participated in the development of sustainable educational plans for them and their peers. A young female refugee student recited a poem during the event.

Referring to these vivacious, hope-filled participants, Zaheerah Bham-Ismail said, “When I look at these bright young women, I understand why we are doing what we do. These young girls talked about education and that is so close to my heart because if there is one way we want to make an impact, change generations, change lives, that is going to be through education."

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