GENEVA - Hawa Aden Mohamed won the United Nations refugee agency's Nansen Refugee Award on Tuesday for her work in helping thousands of Somali women and girls, many of them rape victims, start new lives in their battered homeland.

Mohamed, 63, is a former Somali refugee who returned from safety in Canada to her war-torn country in 1995, launching an education program in Puntland to shelter and train Somalis who have fled war, famine and violence, it said.

"When Hawa Aden Mohamed rescues a displaced girl, a life is turned around," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

Known as "Mama Hawa", she founded the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development which has assisted more than 215,000 displaced and victims of violence since 1999, it said.

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