At a hundred of World’s Children’s Press Conferences all over the world on Monday, children revealed who more than two million children have selected as their child rights hero in a Global Vote.
“Our child rights hero and the recipient of the 2013 World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child is the former child slave, James Kofi Annan, Ghana. He is honoured for his 10-year struggle to liberate children who are fishing slaves in Ghana and help them towards a better life”, says Lisa Bonongwe from Zimbabwe.
The World’s Children’s Honorary Award went to Sompop Jantraka, Thailand, for his 25-year struggle against child sex trade and for vulnerable children in the Mekong Region and Kimmie Weeks, Liberia, for his 20-year battle for the rights of children affected by war.
The World’s Children’s Prize (WCP) is a unique educational programme for children that promotes the Rights of the Child and a more humane world. Since 2000, 34,8 million children have participated in the WCP Programme and have learnt about the rights of the child, democracy and global friendship. Many of the participating children have themselves had their rights violated and many learned that they have rights for the first time through the WCP, and that they can demand respect for their rights. In a Global Vote, the children decide who should receive their prestigious Award for outstanding contributions to the rights of the child. The candidates are selected by a Child Jury who are child rights experts through their own life experiences. The jury members include former child soldiers, debt slaves, homeless children and child rights advocates. The Prize Candidates become role models for millions of children and use the Award money – this year a total of 100,000 USD –to help some of the world’s most vulnerable children towards a better life.
The patrons of the World’s Children’s Prize include five Nobel Prize Laureates and three global legends: Nelson Mandela; Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma; and Xanana Gusmão, Prime Minister of East Timor. H.R.M. Queen Silvia of Sweden is also a patron, along with world-leaders Graça Machel and Desmond Tutu.
The World’s Children’s Prize Programme is carried out annually in cooperation with tens of thousands of teachers and hundreds of organisations all over the world, and with support from sources including the Swedish Postcode Lottery, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), The Body Shop, Giving Wings, ECPAT Sweden, the Survé Family Foundation and eWork. The Award Ceremony takes place at Gripsholm Castle in Mariefred, Sweden, October. Children from 15 countries and H.M. Crown Princess tomorrow and Queen Victoria of Sweden will honour the three Prize Laureates.
JAMES KOFI ANNAN, GHANA
James Kofi Annan is commended for his work to stop child slavery. James himself was a fishing slave as a child, for seven years. He managed to escape, get an education and become a bank manager. Six years ago he left the bank to work solely to stop child slavery. At that time he had already started an organisation called Challenging Heights, in 2003, which had liberated over 500 children from slavery. James believes that poverty causes slavery, and education combats poverty. Liberated slave children come first to Challenging Heights’ safe home for 65 children. The children have had difficult experiences, and are given rehabilitation and security.
When they are strong enough, they can return home to their parents and attend an ordinary school. It can take a year before they are ready. Challenging Heights also runs a school for 700 pupils of different ages. They offer training and loans to poor mothers so that they can support their families and not have to sell their children into slavery. Through 21 Child Rights Clubs, Challenging Heights teaches 630 vulnerable children about the rights of the child and campaigns against slavery. Through his work and Challenging Heights, James has supported over 10,000 children who have been slaves or at risk of slavery.
SOMPOP JANTRAKA, THAILAND
Sompop Jantraka is commended for his almost 25-year struggle against trafficking and exploitation of children in the sex industry and other harmful forced labour. Sompop grew up in poverty and started working at the age of six. His organisation Development Education Programme for Daughters and Communities/Greater Mekong Sub-Region (DEPDC/GMS) has given thousands of poor children from throughout the Mekong Region – Thailand, Laos, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam and China – protection and education. Many of these children belong to indigenous ethnic groups who are treated badly in their home countries and live in dire poverty.
Often these children are not registered at birth, so they don’t have citizenship and often cannot attend school as a result. Sompop’s work has earned him many enemies, but despite death threats he has managed to build up a school and vocational training centre, two safe homes for particularly vulnerable children, a 24-hour crisis phone line, and a radio and TV station run by young people. Sompop saves children from being lured into the child sex trade by giving them knowledge, safety, self-esteem and faith in the future.
KIMMIE WEEKS, LIBERIA
Kimmie Weeks is commended because he has spent over 20 years, since he was ten years old, fighting for the rights of the child, especially for children affected by war. While fleeing in wartime Liberia, Kimmie almost died of cholera. There and then he pledged to spend his whole life helping disadvantaged children. Kimmie and his friends founded ‘Voice of the Future’ and learned about the rights of the child. When Kimmie was 16 they organised a campaign to disarm the child soldiers in the civil war. This contributed to the liberation of 20,000 child soldiers. One year later, Kimmie had to flee. He had revealed that the newly elected President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, was recruiting child soldiers to the Liberian army.
The President tried to have Kimmie killed. As a refugee in the USA, Kimmie continued his work for children affected by war, not only in Liberia but also in other countries, primarily Sierra Leone and Uganda. Kimmie and other young people now run an organisation called Youth Action International. YAI helps vulnerable children, providing a home for orphans, rehabilitation of child soldiers, education, health care and more. YAI also lobbies governments and parliaments to promote respect for the rights of the child. (Source: Worldchildrenprize.org)