Nigeria’s Dr. Rebecca Samuel Dali, who had helped in the North East to reintegrate girls and orphans freed by Boko Haram received the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation award today in Geneva.
Rebecca who runs the Centre for Caring, Empowerment and Peace initiative (CCEPI) was recognised for her courageous efforts in promoting the reintegration of returning women abducted by the Boko Haram group back into their local communities in Nigeria.
The award was given at the United Nations European headquarters, Palais des Nations in Geneva to mark the World Humanitarian Day (WHD). The WHD is celebrated yearly on 19 August.
In her address after receiving the award Dr. Rebecca Dali said: “I give thanks to my God who gave me courage and opportunity to serve his children – my neighbours”.
Dali said she was heartened by the recognition she and her organization have received from the de Mello Foundation. “The award came to me as a miracle from God,” she said.
“So, it will urge me to do more. It is really going to help me,” she said.
Rebecca Dali was nominated for the award by Mr. Stanley Noffsinger, director of the office of the General Secretariat of the World Council of Churches and former general secretary of the Church of the Brethren in USA, which had close cooperation with Dr. Dali, CCEPI and Church of the Brethren (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa) in Nigeria.
The award is given every two years in memory of Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed in a terrorist attack on August 19, 2003 in Baghdad, Iraq, along with 21 others. The prize aims to draw world attention to the courageous, often unnoticed, humanitarian work of an individual, group or organisation in areas of conflict.
“Rebecca Dali is a very courageous woman in a corner in Africa, in northeastern Nigeria, who is doing work under very difficult circumstances,” said Anne Willem Bijleveld, the chairman of the board of the de Mello Foundation, according to a report by Voice of America.
“Rebecca Dali did a tremendous job in re-establishing dialogue and reconciliation to get these girls back into their communities, to get them back where they came from and that they can continue with their life again,” Bijleveld said.
The award carries a cash prize of about $5,000, which Bijleveld terms “a symbolic amount.” She may also win more support from the publicity.
According to a profile published by Voice of America, Dali was born on October 1, 1960, the same day Nigeria got its independence. She overcame extreme poverty in childhood and a rape at age six to earn a Ph.D in later years in ethics and philosophy.
She got married in 1979 to a man who, she said, “allowed me to do what I like to do.” She has six children. Her fourth, a son, was lost on August 21, 2011 in the aftermath of the Jos crisis, when clashes erupted between Muslim and Christian ethnic groups.
Dali formed her non-profit organization Center for Caring Empowerment and Peace Initiative in northern Nigeria in 1989 to aid widows and orphans caught in situations of violence, who often struggle to survive.
She has established three Livelihood Centers that teach women marketable skills, such as sewing, computers, and cosmetology. “When they graduate, we give them seed money so they can start their own business,” she said.
When the Boko Haram insurgency began in 2009, she turned her attention to the victims of this Islamist radical group. She told VOA tens of thousands of destitute widows and orphans were left behind when their men were killed.
“In our society, women are not dignified. Even if their husbands are killed, then the family usually will take away all the things that they own,” she said. “So, in the Boko Haram, they are double victimized. So, I train these widows in my Livelihood Centers.”
Dali’s husband, Reverend Samuel Dali, was president of the Church of the Brethren, which was attended by most of the 276 Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram in April 2014.