Ma. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda (center), President and Director of the Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc. as she receives the World’s Children’s Honorary Award. Together with her is Her Royal Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden and a step-UP graduate and human trafficking survivor during the 2011 World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child in Sweden
Chosen from 30 candidates, Visayan Forum Director and Founder Cecilia Flores-Oebanda was recently named one of the two recipients of the World’s Children’s Honorary Award in the 2011 World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child in Sweden.
“Of all the awards I received, this is the most significant and precious to me because I was voted by children as they see how I have devoted 20 years of my life to fight for children’s rights. It makes me proud to see people recognizing the efforts of the Visayan Forum in helping stop human trafficking in the country,” said Oebanda.
Together with Oebanda was Bangladesh’s Monira Rahman. She aids girls who have become victims of acid or petrol attacks. Meanwhile, this year’s winner of the World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child was Murhabazi Namegabe of D.R. Congo, who works to free children forced to become sex slaves or soldiers in Congo.
The World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child is the largest annual and empowerment process for the rights of a child, democracy, and global friendship of children. About three million children all over the world sent their votes to name this year’s winner and honor outstanding devotion in the fight of children’s rights despite threats and danger to life. Nelson Mandela, HRM Queen Silvia of Sweden, and Aung San Suu Kyi are among the famous patrons of the said award.
“I am so inspired and overwhelmed to receive the award, not only because it was awarded and voted by children but also because it was given in Sweden where children look at you as their champion. Their heroes are no longer Batman nor Wonderwoman anymore but real people, who help fight for their rights and find opportunities to improve their lives and others,” expressed Oebanda.
Technology in the Fight Against Human Trafficking
The Visayan Forum Foundation (VFF) is a non-government organization in the country that battle against human trafficking and envisions a nation where vulnerable migrants are free, protected and empowered. Oebanda acknowledged how technology, most especially Microsoft’s Stop Trafficking and Exploitation of People through Unlimited Potential (step-UP) program, has been essential in their fight to curb human trafficking and save potential victims from the crime.
“Human trafficking is one of the worst forms of human rights violations and with step-UP, we at Microsoft, together with the Visayan Forum, are taking a stand to help address the issue of human trafficking and exploitation in the Philippines,” said John Bessey, Managing Director, Microsoft Philippines.
Step-UP gives basic IT skills to human trafficking victims to aid their reintegration to society and community. The program extends to underprivileged youth and women in deprived regions in the country to empower their vulnerability towards human trafficking.
“Microsoft is a great help to Visayan Forum as our partnership has evolved from helping the victims rehabilitate to preventing the proliferation of trafficking. We are facing a lot of battles in our lives but trafficking is one evil that we can solve and eliminate once we have a global community that will fight for the same thing. We can achieve it if we continue to work hand-in-hand with our partners and with the government and I promise that we will pursue this fight for the children, community and the country,” promised Oebanda.
“It is an honor to be working with Cecile for step-UP and we acknowledge her organization’s efforts in helping create awareness on human trafficking as well as enable the survivors to realize their own potentials. We look forward to more years helping her and the Visayan Forum to empower the children to live the life they deserve,” ended Bessey.