The Award Ceremony
Gloria Amparo, Maritza Asprilla Cruz and Mery Medina represented Butterflies at UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award Ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland on 29 September.
Speaking on behalf of Butterflies, Gloria talked about the violent situation in Buenaventura and their commitment to continue their work:
“This violence is heightened and inflicted against us, women and girls in the midst of the armed conflict of Buenaventura, a conflict which we have been living through for many years. This violence not only intimidates us, but also affects us physically and psychologically. Often, fleeing is the only escape.”
“We are but one example of efforts by many Afro-Colombian communities, organizations and towns which struggle for the recognition of our rights to diversity, identity, cultural richness and other ways of living. We ask for your solidarity so that you can keep supporting us today and tomorrow in the construction of our future.”
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, presented the award and Nansen Medal to the three representatives of the women’s rights group. Praising their dedication, he said, “Every day they put their own lives at risk – in order to rescue abused and displaced women and children. Butterflies are truly a grass root organisation and they help the most vulnerable people in the most vulnerable region.”
Referring to the heroic work of Butterflies, António Guterres said, “Protection is what they do. They not only assist and support victims, but organise them to fight for their rights, report the crimes and seek justice.”
The Award ceremony featured a keynote speech on video by UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie and musical performances by Maher Zain, Rokia Traore and Rodrigo y Gabriela.
Angelina Jolie, UNHCR Special Envoy, world-renowned actress and film director.
As a staunch advocate for ending sexual violence in conflict Angelina Jolie praises the work of the women of Butterflies in a special recorded message:
“The Mariposas [Butterflies] draw on their strengths as women to help thousands of vulnerable people who would otherwise have no rights and no protection. By winning this award, I hope it helps more people everywhere to understand that we have to change attitudes to sexual violence, and to help end impunity for these crimes.”
Maher Zain, Multi-platinum award winning Swedish singer-songwriter
Maher Zain said that his visit with UNHCR to meet Syrian refugees in Lebanon had made him appreciate even more the impact of the butterflies ‘lifesaving work’.
Maher has been actively supporting UNHCR since World Refugee Day 2013 and has recently visited UNHCR frontline work for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. At the Nansen Refugee Awards 2014 Maher debuted a new song that he has written specifically for the ceremony. ‘One Day’ was inspired by Syrian refugees he met in Lebanon and the millions of other forcibly displaced around the world.
Rokia Traoré, Internationally acclaimed Malian singer-songwriter
Rokia Traoré recognised the great ‘courage and strength’ shown by the Butterflies and the importance of their stance against gender and sexual based violence.
Rokia began a new role with UNHCR when she supported World Refugee Day travelling to Burkina Faso to visit Malian refugees in the camp of Goudobou.
Rodrigo y Gabriela, Internationally acclaimed Mexican guitar duo
Rodrigo y Gabriela said it was a great honour to be able to recognise the unique achievement of the Butterflies.