An exceptional partnership between female ambassadors to Ethiopia and urban refugee women representatives was established last week during a tea party that took place in the UNHCR offices on June16th. The Urban Refugee Women’s Association (URWA), after having been awarded funds for a project by the globally known V-day network, invited some of the female Ambassadors to celebrate their Association and their success. The event also saw the participation of spouses of diplomats and heads of mission, dignitaries from the Africa Union and members of the humanitarian community. An all female, multi-cultural event organized with the support of UNHCR Community Services to celebrate women’s empowerment and the resilience of refugee women!
25 refugee women hosted the tea party. The guests included Her Excellency, the Irish Ambassador, Sile Maguire and representatives from the Danish Embassy, the African Union, and the UNHCR and the Spouses of Diplomats and Heads of Mission.
The President of the Urban Refugee Women’s Association spoke of her gratitude to the Irish Ambassador. She was referring to the donation of $1000 from the Irish Embassy which was granted to the Urban Refugee Women’s Association in May. The fund is ear-marked for organizations that support and empower women and promote women’s rights.
“We now have our own bank account, thanks to the funding we have received indirectly from the Irish Embassy. Slowly we are taking control, organising ourselves and now we are able to support each other. We are going to provide home visits to very vulnerable refugees and establish a Mothers and Babies group.”
She also spoke of the hardship of being a refugee
“It is scary when your husband can no longer protect you, we’ve lost everything, we witnessed terrible horrors and now we are alone in Ethiopia. That is why we have come together to form this organisation. There is strength in numbers and we can share experiences, advice and support to each other”.
Her Excellency, the Irish Ambassador, Sile Maguire commented on how difficult it is to imagine the experiences of a refugee yet it’s encouraging to see the positive steps that these women are doing to help and support themselves.
Speaking at the event, HE Sile Maguire said:
“You are our sisters. It is difficult for us to imagine the horrors you have faced, we can only imagine what a refugee must endure.”
“It is inspiring to see how you have come together to form your Association, how you have decided to ‘unite’ and offer support and help to each other. In Irish we have a saying, ‘Ar scath a cheile a mhaireann na dhaoine’, which is translated as ‘we live in one another’s shelter’. It is you, the Women’s Association, which brings real meaning to this phrase. You offer strength and support to each other and you are looking after each other.”
The Ambassador also commented on the level of interest the Irish government has on the issue of refugees.
“The Irish government is particularly interested in the issue of refugees. An example of their commitment to the cause of refugees is that the Irish government funded three international UNVs to the UNHCR to provide expertise and additional support to the services provided to help refugees.”
The Urban Refugee Women’s Association was established 2 years ago and works closely with the Irish Aid sponsored UNHCR Community Mobilizer, Ms Niamh O’Sullivan.
Currently Ethiopia alone hosts over 100,000, refugees from conflict ridden countries such as Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
To ackowledge the plight of refugees, the UN has designated June 20th as World Refugee Day.