NEW YORK (August 20, 2019) – UNICEF Ambassador Halima Aden traveled with UNICEF USA to Italy in August, where she met with refugee adolescents and families. Aden, a former refugee, shared her own journey with young men and women and engaged in meaningful conversations about the importance of refugees advocating for themselves.
In Palermo, Aden met with eight young women at a UNICEF-supported reception center who had made the harrowing journey from Libya across the Mediterranean Sea. Since 2014, more than 70,000 unaccompanied minors have arrived in Italy, 85% of them between the ages of 16-17. Aden encouraged these young women to optimize on the opportunities that the reception center provided and to continue to empower one another.
“These young women changed my life. They have been through so much, things that no one should ever experience, but they have dreams of changing the world” said Aden. “It’s our responsibility to speak up for refugees and make sure they are protected and are given the opportunity to fulfill their wildest ambitions.”
UNICEF is on the ground defending the rights of these young women and children who have made this journey. UNICEF and partners are protecting unaccompanied minors from exploitation and violence, providing access to psychosocial support and pressing for lawmakers around the world to take action to combat the root causes of violence and poverty pushing children and adolescents to flee.
In Italy UNICEF’s response is focused mainly on providing unaccompanied children with protection, improving social inclusion, participation and skills building. This is done through targeted interventions to strengthen the guardianship system, support and care for adolescents.
Aden visited an informal settlement on the outskirts of Rome where UNICEF and partners support a community of refugee women and children who have fled gender-based violence (GBV). There she played with young children and spoke with mothers about the lengths they have gone to protect their children.
“My own mother fled Somalia during the Civil War to give my siblings and I a chance at a brighter tomorrow” shared Aden. “To listen to these women who have sacrificed so much to protect their children brought tears to my eyes. A mother’s love knows no bounds and I was honored to meet these incredible women who would do anything for their children.”
As a UNICEF Ambassador Aden uses her voice and platform to advocate, educate and fundraise on behalf of children around the world.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.