May 06, 2008 12:00 ET

Canadian UNICEF Worker Wins Prestigious Award

Pernille Ironside Honoured for Helping Child Soldiers and Victims of Violence

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 6, 2008) - Pernille Ironside, a Canadian aid worker for UNICEF, was recognized today with a prestigious Top 40 Under 40 Award by Caldwell Partners for her outstanding efforts working with UNICEF to save and improve the lives of children and women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

"We are very proud of Pernille for the very important work she does to help the world's most vulnerable children," said Nigel Fisher, President & CEO, UNICEF Canada. "Every day thousands of children, some just babies, are brutalized by conflict and war. UNICEF relies on the courage of our aid workers to protect these children and provide them with opportunities to grow in a world of peace. Pernille Ironside certainly deserves this award," Fisher said.

Ironside, 34, of Edmonton, Alberta, received the award for her ongoing work as a Protection Specialist in the DRC. Ironside has been working in the DRC since 2005, and has been a key player in protecting children and women in this conflict zone.

Ironside was selected as a Top 40 Under 40 recipient from over 1,500 nominees. Honourees were chosen on five key criteria including: vision and leadership; innovation and achievement; impact; community involvement and contribution; and strategy for growth.

Ironside has been a leader in negotiating with various armed groups for the release of thousands of child soldiers and is being honoured for her work in confronting the alarming scale and brutality of sexual violence in the DRC.

"My experiences have been profound, humbling and inspiring," said Pernille Ironside. "Certainly, I did not imagine that following my dream of working on issues of human rights would one day lead me here. This award reflects a collective effort to protect and advance the lives of Congolese children and women."

The on-going conflict in the DRC

Years of conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have left five million people dead, hundreds of thousands of women and girls brutally raped, and more than a million people displaced from their homes, half of whom are children.

UNICEF and its partners have helped negotiate the release of about 30,000 children - girls and boys - who have been recruited and forced into armed groups to act as fighters, porters, cooks and sex slaves in the DRC. UNICEF continues to make contact with leaders of key armed groups to release the estimated 3,000 children still being used by these forces.

Once released, UNICEF works to rehabilitate former child soldiers, helping them to receive education or training, and where possible, reunite with their families and reintegrate into their communities.

In the DRC, the brutality and scale of violence against women is unprecedented with over 200,000 women and girls being raped. The number of women who have died as a result of sexual violence is unknown. UNICEF continues to work to stop sexual violence against women and girls and provide support to rape survivors, having already directly assisted more than 60,000 survivors of sexual violence since 2003.

"While important progress has been made in the last few years, significant challenges remain ahead. We need greater resources to respond to these challenges, together with increased pressure on the Congolese government to ensure that children receive the protection they require," said Ironside. "Despite suffering the consequences of years of war, the Congolese are among the most resilient people I have met with such hope for their future. I welcome the generous support of my fellow Canadians to ensure that progress in the DRC is possible."

With more than 60 years of on-the-ground experience in developing nations, UNICEF continues to work every day to protect children from armed conflict and violence, and to help all children gain access to quality healthcare and education.

UNICEF Canada has launched an emergency appeal to raise funding for the humanitarian crisis in the DRC. To support UNICEF's ongoing work in saving the lives of children and women affected by conflict and violence in the DRC, please visit www.unicef.ca or call 1-888-777-0380.


UNICEF is the world's leader for children, working in 156 countries and territories to save, protect and enhance the lives of girls and boys. UNICEF supports child health and nutrition programmes, promotes quality basic education, protects children from violence, exploitation and AIDS, and is the world's largest provider of vaccines for developing nations. With six decades of on-the-ground experience, UNICEF saves and rebuilds children's lives in natural disasters and conflict.

Contact Information

  • For more information, or to interview Pernille Ironside,
    please contact: UNICEF Canada
    Karen Snider, Media Relations Officer
    (416) 482-4444 ext. 831 or Cell: (647) 203-7455
    Email: ksnider@unicef.ca
    Website: www.unicef.ca