Last night Rosa attended the first Migrant & Refugee Woman of the Year Award held at the Royal Festival Hall as part of London’s International Women’s Day celebrations to honour three exceptional women.
The award, coordinated by the Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum was set up to celebrate the inspirational leadership seen from migrant and refugee women and say ‘thank you’ to these committed and courageous women, who give selflessly and act so effectively.
This year’s winner was Nazek Ramadan, founder of Migrant Voice. Honorary awards were also given to Luljeta Nuzi, founder of Shpresa Programme for the Albanian speaking community, and Clara Osagiede, London Underground RMT Secretary for Cleaners. The ceremony was hosted by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Natasha Walters, and Zrinka Bralo.
Rosa introduced a generous anonymous donor who wished to support the Migrant Award as he, many years ago, came to this country as a refugee. He wished to show his empathy with refugees and migrants who have contributed so positively to their communities and is delighted to have been able to sponsor the award and event.
Nazek Ramadan – Migrant and Refugee Woman of the Year
In the 1980s Nazek opened her home in Beirut to refugees. She and her family fled Lebanon in 1986, and she began volunteering soon after she arrived in the UK, initially at an Arabic speaking supplementary school. Her first challenge in London was to learn English, which she did by watching children’s TV, going to classes and joining in any activity she could.
The early years in London were not easy and Nazek experienced racial abuse. She discovered that learning English and getting a job were not enough to be accepted. When a fellow migrant said to her ‘how can they hate us so much, when they don’t even know us’ she replied by saying, ‘you’ve answered your own question, they don’t know us’. She realised that ‘everyone was talking about migrants except migrants’ and so set out to remedy this.
In 2007 she launched the New Londoners newspaper which, modelled on London’s freesheets, succeeded in getting migrant and asylum issues in front of London commuters and won two awards from the Mayor of London. And in 2010 she founded Migrant Voice, an organisation dedicated to addressing the lack of representation of migrants in the mainstream media.
Nazek has her eyes set on the next general election, aiming to have a team of migrants ready to speak up on issues that affect them to politicians and the media.
Read Nazek’s article in the Guardian here
Luljeta Nuzi – Honorary Award
Luljeta Nuzi came to London from Albania in 1999. She came seeking sanctuary, but found herself isolated and desperate to learn English. A mixture of anger and gratitude motivated her to volunteer – anger, that she was misinformed about the support available to her and gratitude, because a local project helped her find her feet. ‘Everything I learned, I shared with my community’ she said and in 2001 she founded the Shpresa Programme, ‘Shpresa’ meaning hope. Today the organisation has nine staff, 52 active volunteers, provides services across seven boroughs and campaigns nationally. Shpresa’s integration model which Luljeta shares freely, often mentoring other community organisations, is to work in partnership to make services accessible and only to set up new ones if no one else can help.
Her nominator says of her:
At the heart of Shpresa is a belief that communities can and do bring about change themselves. Shpresa, under Luljeta’s leadership, has nurtured a generation of young Albanian speaking people who are engaged, high achieving and active citizens. This is an extraordinary achievement and blazes a trail for other refugee and migrant community groups.
Clara Osagiede – Honorary Award
Clara works as a cleaner and is a trade unionist on the London Underground. She came to London from Nigeria in 1995 ‘to get away from trouble’ resulting from her involvement in student politics. Cleaning is a poorly paid job with difficult work shifts. A large part of this workforce is made up of migrants from the African and South American continents and unresolved immigration status can be used as a threat to workers trying to organise themselves. When the RMT Union decided to recruit cleaners, Clara put herself forward and became one of the only women reps and subsequently their Secretary. From 2000 onwards she organised her colleagues, enlisting support from the tube drivers when necessary, and led a long and successful campaign for cleaning staff to be paid the London Living Wage. She leads by reminding her colleagues that there is dignity in their work and says that the people she serves come first.
One of her colleagues said of her:
Clara is a passionate fighter for justice at every level. Her experiences of life and migration are a source of strength to her. She will still be fighting when the rest of us are put out to grass. She is a worthy recipient of this honour.
The Migrant and Refugee Woman of the Year Award is coordinated by the Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum. The Award is the product of a partnership between Rosa and