On Sunday 13 November 2016 we hosted the third presentation of The Marsh Award for Peacemaking and Peacekeeping. This year’s recipient, Dr Rouba Mhaissen, is a Lebanese-Syrian and the Founder and Director of Sawa for Development and Aid, a non-profit organisation that supports Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and Sawa Foundation UK which supports forced migrants in Europe and the Middle East. Dr Mhaissen attended our event in Jordan earlier this year on humanitarian outreach in Syria.
The award was presented by Karen Pierce, Chief Operating Officer at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, hosted by Iain Ferguson, the Chairman of Wilton Park and attended by delegates of our meeting on gender parity in business and politics, the first event of the 2016 #WeekofWomen.
Dr Mhaissen used to split her time between London and Lebanon, recently completing a doctorate at the School of Oriental and African Studies, but she will soon return to Lebanon permanently to be closer to the frontlines of Sawa’s work, as well as her family in Beirut and Damascus. Upon accepting her award, she spoke with passion about the crisis in Lebanon, and told the story of how Sawa grew from one WhatsApp message into five centres providing education for thousands of children.
“All we have to do today is to be on the right side of history: demanding that civilians be protected, urging an end to the violence, supporting Syrians in their dreams of freedom, and in their quest for better lives. This is why they went in the streets in 2011. This is why they are waking up in the harsh winter in the midst of nowhere to send their children to school in freezing tents. To these everyday heroes and heroines, I dedicate this award, and donate the £1,000 to our work in Sawa for development and aid. Thank you again for standing with the people of Syria.”
Whilst recognition of Dr Mhaissen’s work is clearly important, the real purpose of the Marsh Award is to ensure the issues its recipients tackle in their daily work are spread to a wider audience. In this vein, Dr Mhaissen has already met UK Ambassador Hugo Shorter in Beirut and is hoping to soon meet with Gareth Bayley, the UKs Special Representative for Syria.
Gareth Bayley sent these words of praise:
“Congratulations to Dr Rouba Mhaissen for being chosen for this year’s Marsh Award. Her NGO, SAWA, works tirelessly to help alleviate the needs of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Syrian refugees, ripped from their homes to flee the ongoing bloodshed in their home country, desperately need help from selfless people like Dr Mhaissen to fulfil basic human needs for their families.”
What is the Marsh Award?
A fruit of a partnership between The Marsh Christian Trust and Wilton Park, the Marsh Award for Peacemaking and Peacekeeping recognises the work of an individual making a real difference to the lives of those suffering from the impact of conflict around the world.
The nomination process
Wilton Park Programme Directors nominate a participant who has attended a Wilton Park meeting in the past year and whose contribution to peacemaking and peacekeeping has had the most impact on others. Nominations are then judged by the Wilton Park Advisory Council who prepare a short list to be passed on to Brian Marsh at the Marsh Christian Trust for final selection of the winner. The recipient receives a £1,000 prize to further his or her work.
The first Award in 2014 was presented by the Foreign Secretary William Hague, to Elizabeth Mary Angok at the 2013 Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, for her work as Regional Director for the South Sudan Mother and Child Care Organisation.
Elizabeth Angok being presented with the Marsh Award for Peacemaking & Peacekeeping by the UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague
The 2015 Award was won by Devanna de la Puente, Inter-agency Regional Emergency Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Advisor for Asia and the Pacific and was presented by the British Ambassador to Thailand, Mark Kent.
Devanna de la Puente being presented with the Marsh Award by British Ambassador to Thailand, Mark Kent