The fourth annual Ockenden International Prize for excellence in self-reliant refugee projects was won by a home-grown women empowerment project in Kampala, Uganda.

John Simpson CBE, BBC World Affairs Editor, presented the Prize of $US100,000 at the annual ceremony in the Simpkins Lee Theatre, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University on February 23, 2016.

The ‘Women Empowerment Project’, in the Katwe, Nkere Zone, Makindye Division of the Ugandan capital is a project devised and maintained by its beneficiaries.

Entered by the Young African Refugees for Integral Development (YARID), founded by its director Robert Hakiza who accepted the award, it teaches English, business skills, tailoring and handcraft to female refugees, asylum seekers and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to help overcome deprivation and vulnerability to become healthy, educated, self-sustaining and contributing members of society.

A capacity audience saw the Prize presentations and heard the three contenders explain their projects.

The other finalists, who each won $25,000, and their projects were:

  • Fostering self-reliance for displaced Syrians in South Lebanon is a project run by Mercy Corps Europe combining market-driven vocational training, mentoring, internships and long-term support and the provision of tools and materials for refugees and host communities with limited resources.

  • Sustainable self-led education for Sudanese (Darfuri) Refugees (Chad), a refugee-led education project that has empowered refugee families to create their own Student Parent Associations and Primary Education Committees, an initiative of Cord UK.

The three finalist projects, winnowed from 42 entries from 25 countries, were examined by five expert judges in the final round of judging – a 10-minute oral presentation and 10-minute Q & A – only hours before the Ceremony at Lady Margaret Hall, where the charity’s founder, the late Joyce Pearce OBE began her career of service to refugees and displaced people worldwide.

The judges were particularly impressed by the self-starter status of the YARID project and its capacity to evolve into other simple self-reliance initiatives.

The judging panel, led by broadcaster Michael Buerk, sought evidence of increased self-reliance in the communities supported, the central ethos of the Prize, which recognises and rewards work that has improved the lives of refugees and displaced people.

Last year’s Prize was won by ‘Everyone Supports Returnees’, a project for displaced people forcibly returned to Burundi from Tanzania, which was presented by the Right Honourable Dr. John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York.

The 2014 Prize went to the Norwegian Refugee Council for a land rights project in Zimbabwe, which benefited

5,000 people, while the inaugural Prize, awarded in 2013, went to India’s Centre for Development (CfD) partnered by UK charity Childreach International for its Piplaj Advocacy Project to empower a deeply impoverished community in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

The 2016 judges were broadcaster Mr Michael Buerk, (Chair), Ms Georgia Cole, Joyce Pearce Junior Research Fellow, Refugee Studies Centre/LMH, Oxford; Dr Jeff Crisp, Research Associate, Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford; Dr Tom Scott-Smith, Associate Professor of Refugee Studies and Forced Migration, Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford and Mr Mohammed Suleman, Managing Director, Barrow & Gale.