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Jordanian scientist wins UNHCR Nansen Award for Middle East and North Africa

Rana Dajani’s ‘We Love Reading’ organisation seeks to establish library in every neighbourhood in Jordan

By JT - Sep 23,2020 - Last updated at Sep 23,2020

Rana Dajani, a Jordanian scientist and founder of local organisation ‘We Love Reading’ has been named as this year’s UNHCR Nansen Award Winner for the Middle East and North Africa as a result of her efforts in encouraging both refugee and Jordanian children to read for pleasure (Photo courtesy of UNHCR)

AMMAN — Rana Dajani, a Jordanian scientist and founder of local organisation “We Love Reading” has been named as this year’s UNHCR Nansen Award Winner for the Middle East and North Africa as a result of her efforts in encouraging both refugee and Jordanian children to read for pleasure.

Started in Jordan in 2006, Dajani began “We Love Reading” with the goal of establishing a library in every neighbourhood in Jordan, starting with her own in the capital Amman, according a UNHCR statement. 

After her storytelling sessions at the local mosque proved successful in encouraging parents to read to their children, a grassroots movement emerged and “We Love Reading” has since grown into a global organisation operating in 56 countries around the world.

In Jordan, under the leadership of Dajani, the organisation has trained over 4,000 refugees and Jordanians to become “Reading Ambassadors”, individuals in the community who are dedicated to inspire children with an enthusiasm for reading. 

Working across the Kingdom, as well as in refugee camps, it is this core work and Dajani’s continued passion for supporting children of all nationalities, which has led to her being awarded with this year’s Nansen Award for the Middle East and North Africa, read the statement.

“Regardless of where you come from or what language you speak, learning to read and enjoy the magic of books is an essential part of childhood. But Dr Rana and ‘We Love Reading’ have gone far beyond this in also creating hope for generations of refugee and Jordanian children. For this reason, we are proud to award her with the UNHCR’s 2020 MENA Nansen Award,” UNHCR Deputy Representative to Jordan Carolyn Ennis said in the statement.

UNHCR’s Nansen Award is an annual accolade that celebrates those who have gone to extraordinary lengths to support refugees and asylum seekers, stateless persons, and the internally displaced, the statement said.

These are the everyday heroes going to extraordinary lengths to help forcibly displaced people in great need. It is named in honour of Norwegian explorer and humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen, the first High Commissioner for Refugees appointed by the League of Nations in 1921, UNHCR said in the statement.

Supported by the embassies of Norway and Switzerland in Jordan, UNHCR is honoured to celebrate the achievements and inspirational work of Dajani, the UN agency said. 

It is worth noting that the last two MENA Nansen regional winners, local volunteer Abeer Khreisha in 2019 and the NGO Reclaim Childhood in 2018, were also coming from Jordan, recognising the extraordinary response put in place to the refugee presence in the Kingdom.

“I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Dr Rana Dajani and ‘We Love Reading’ for being awarded the Nansen Award 2020 for the Middle East and North Africa. Dr Dajani has demonstrated how small steps can make a real difference in each person’s life and in the community. Reading is a fantastic tool to encourage critical thinking, spread joy and stimulate creativity and entrepreneurship among Jordanian and refugee children,” the statement quoted Tone Allers, the Norwegian ambassador in Jordan, as saying.

“I congratulate Rana Dajani on winning this year’s Nansen prize in the MENA region and thank her for her tireless efforts to bring the beauty of reading to children in Jordan,” said Lukas Gasser, the Swiss ambassador to Jordan, in the statement.

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