2013 Joint Woman of the Year – Remzije Sherifi

2013 Joint Woman of the Year – Remzije Sherifi

A FORMER refugee from Kosovo who was evacuated in 1999 with her family to Glasgow has been named Refugee Woman of the Year.

Remzije Sherifi, known as Rema, on the 8th of March was honoured for her volunteer work at Royal Festival Hall in London.

Remzije Sherifi trained as an electrical engineer, but radio was her passion and she was one of the first female radio journalists in Kosova. She lost her job in 1992 as a result of the political persecution of Albanians at the time of the fall of Yugoslavia.  As the war in the Balkans spread, and at the beginning of the western military intervention in Kosova, Remzije left her home to escape the fighting and was evacuated on medical grounds from a refugee camp in Macedonia.

“As a consequence of ethnic cleansing during the war in Kosova in 1999 more then 90 % of  Kosovan Albanians became refugees in different parts of the world.I was one of the lucky ones, with my 3 sons and husband to be evacuated by British troops to Scotland as medical evacuee.  When we got to Glasgow, it was amazing to find people with smiles who were welcoming us. I didn’t speak any English but I could read the expressions on people’s faces.” says Remzije.

Set up by organisations working with migrants and refugees, the awards honour inspirational women who fled war and persecution to build new lives in the UK.

Rema, 57, said: “I was so surprised to win this award. I didn’t expect it- not when there are so many inspirational women across the UK doing much more good work than I am.”

The awards event, held in London, were presented to five women from across the UK, including Young Woman of the Year, two honorary awards and the joint Woman of the Year award.

Rema now runs Maryhill Integration Network where three staff and 60 volunteers operate a programme of weekly activities in health, learning and art and dance.

Her work with the network saw her named Evening Times Community Champion in the north of Glasgow and in 2009 she was nominated for Scotswoman of the Year.

Rema also volunteers with Migrant Voice, a free newspaper written by migrants to the UK.

Rema shares her award with Constance Nzeneu, a lawyer from Cameroon who fled to the UK in 2005 from the threat of a forced marriage and who now lives in Cardiff.

The awards event coincided with International Women’s Day and was hosted by broadcaster Samira Ahmed.

The Migrant and Refugee Woman of the Year Awards were organised by The Forum; Women for Refugee Women; Migrants’ Rights Network; Rosa, the UK fund for women and girls; Oxfam and EQUALS.