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And the World’s children’s prize goes to… 0

MILAN (Italy) – It’s not Nobel Prize season but yesterday Sweden hosted another important awarding ceremony: the World’s Children’s Prize, to celebrate the work of children’s rights advocates. The adult chosen to become the 2011 children’s rights hero is Murhabazi Namegabe, from the Democratic Republic of Congo.Namegabe, founder of the organization Bureau pour le Volontariat au Service de l’Enfance et de la Santè (BVES), has dedicated his life to rescue children in need and was elected “for his dangerous struggle to free children forced to be child soldiers or sex slaves.”

Since 1989 BVES has built thirty-five shelters and schools that have welcomed sixty thousand children who have suffered because of the war. In the last twenty-two years Namegabe and his organization have worked tirelessly to end child exploitation in war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, urging the government, all armed groups, organizations and society to protect the country’s children.

Over the years BVES has grown and there are now more than two hundred people working for the organization which has also concentrated its efforts to stop the use of child soldiers.

Because of his activist work Namegabe has gained many enemies : “The more unrest there is in the country, the cheaper it is for them to rob us of our natural resources… In the hunt for riches everyone, even the armies of other countries, uses armed groups and child soldiers, and everyone rapes girls. When I fight against this I make a lot of powerful enemies, because I’m disrupting their business activities”  he says.

An activist under threat

While seven of his colleagues have been killed, Namegabe has been assaulted and imprisoned and he constantly receives death threatens but he’s determined not to stop his activity: “We have to keep going. How could I leave? I have a responsibility to all the vulnerable children that I and BVES have taken care of. The children trust me. I cannot let them down. Every day I’m prepared to die for them.”

BVES has managed to free more than four thousand child soldiers.

The World’s Children’s Honorary Award was given to Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, from the Philippines, for her “tireless struggle, despite constant death threats, against child labour and trafficking, as well as her support to girls who have been sex slaves” and to Monira Rahman, from Bangladesh, “for her fearless struggle for those who have been victims of acid attacks or petrol attacks and whose appearances have been destroyed.

7.1 million children participated with their votes in the 2011 World’s Children’s Prize, which is the world’s largest educational program for young people on the rights of the child.  More than 53 thousand schools in 101 countries are involved in the project, which gives children the chance to gain awareness about their rights. Since its launch in 2000, World’s Children’s Prize has awarded thirty adults who have become role models for children all over the world.

By Ottavia Spaggiari – Afronline.org

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