Somali Women’s Rights Activist Wins Roger Baldwin Award
NEW YORK—Somali women’s rights activist Hawa Aden Mohamed has been selected to receive the prestigious 2008 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award for international human rights defenders, Human Rights First announced today. Human Rights First selected Mohamed to receive the Baldwin Award for her significant contribution to the struggle for human rights as the founder and director of the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development (GECPD), a Somalia-based organization that operates primary and vocational education programs for impoverished, displaced and minority women and girls, and works within communities to promote women’s rights and abolish the practice of female genital cutting. Mohamed began working to improve conditions for displaced women in Somalia in the late 1970s. Forced to flee the country when civil war broke out in 1991, Mohamed chose to return to Somalia and continue her work on behalf of thousands of women and girls. “Hawa Aden Mohamed has provided education and other assistance to tens of thousands of women and girls in a country ruptured by violence and chaos,” said Maureen Byrnes, Executive Director of Human Rights First. “The world may have forgotten about the crisis in Somalia, but Ms. Mohamed has never stopped working to assist the most vulnerable.” Through GECPD, Mohamed mobilizes women to defend and advocate for their rights in society, beginning at home. The center serves over 500 women and children in many towns and villages with medical care, vocational and income-generating trainings, support for more than 50 orphans, and the only public school for girls in the area. Over 3,000 women participate in the organization’s innovative literacy and awareness learning circles that address issues such as family relations, health, education for girls and women, women’s work load, and natural resources management. GECPD has also been at the forefront of the peace and reconciliation movement in Galkayo, working to ensure that the town is not redivided along clan lines. The center has touched tens of thousands of women since it was founded in 1999. Mohamed will be presented with the award in New York later this spring. She will also meet with international organizations and policymakers in Washington and New York. Human Rights First received nominations for extraordinary human rights activists from all over the world. An international selection committee judged that Mohamed should be given the award considering the distinctiveness of her work, the effectiveness with which she has advanced human rights in Somalia and the considerable risks she faces as a result of her work. The Award is named in honor of Roger Baldwin, founder of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the International League for Human Rights. The award is presented by Human Rights First every other year to a human rights organization or activist outside of the United States that has made a distinguished contribution to the protection and promotion of human rights. In alternate years the ACLU selects a U.S.-based winner. Click here to learn more about the Baldwin award and its past honorees.