PRATEEP UNGSONGTHAM HATA
April 14, 2004
A former child laborer, who for 35 years has advocated on behalf of poor children wishing to attend school, was yesterday awarded the World's Children's Prize for the Rights of the Child by a jury of children, who themselves have been affected by child labor, slavery, war and poverty.
Prateep Ungsongtham Hata, a Thai native, was also awarded the second part of the prize, the Global Friends' Award, after 1.3 million children worldwide voted her the winner. Each part of the prize is worth approximately $32,000, which Hata said she will use to establish a new foundation to help poor children in Asia.
"The awareness of people around the world focuses on children more than before," Hata said after the awards were announced in Stockholm. "Especially the children themselves are aware of their rights," she said. The Swedish Children's World Association set up the prize in 2000 to honor those who defend the rights of youngsters.
Paul and Mercy Baskar from India, who have been fighting against child labour for more than 20 years, are awarded the World’s Children’s Honorary Award together with Liz Gaynes and her daughter Emani Davis from the USA who have conducted a 20-year struggle on behalf of prisoners’ children.
WCPRC consists of two unique prizes for monumental contributions to protect children’s rights. More than 1.3 million children all over the world participated in the Global Vote to decide which of three finalists will win the Global Friends’ Award, which is also the world’s largest annual democracy and educational programme for children. An international jury of children who used to be child soldiers, debt-slaves, slaves in brothels, refugees, war victims or street children decide which of the three finalists will take home the other major prize, the World’s Children’s Prize. Unaware of the outcome of the Global Vote, the children of the jury unanimously decided to extend the prize to Prateep Ungsongtham Hata.
The children arrange their own democratic Global Vote. That way, they learn from one another about the Rights of the Child and democracy in what is the world’s most widespread training in democracy and the Rights of the Child. The Global Vote takes place between 2 February and 12 April.
Any school in the world can become a Global Friend of the children’s prizes for defending their rights. At present some 5,000 schools in 52 countries are Global Friend schools, and their number is growing every day.
South Africa is the largest Global Friend country, followed by Sweden. But children also vote in Rajastan’s villages and in the world’s largest school (located in India). They vote in refugee camps in West Sahara, in Brazil’s circus for children who have been child labourers and street children, in schools in Pakistan for children who have been debt-slaves, in the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Gambia, Vietnam, Nepal, Thailand, Guatemala, the USA, the UK, the Czech Republic and many other countries.
The first World’s Children’s Prize was posthumously awarded in 2000 to the murdered Pakistani former rug-weaver and debt-slave child Iqbal Masih. In 2001, both the World’s Children’s Prize and the Global Friends’ Award were given to Asfaw Yemiru, an Ethiopian. Asfaw, who at the age of 9 was a street child, opened at the age of 14 his first school—under a big oak-tree—for street children. Since then, he has spent 45 years devoting all his time to giving vulnerable children in Ethiopia the chance to go to school. In 2002, the world’s schoolchildren posthumously awarded the Global Friends’ Award to Nkosi Johnson, South Africa, who fought for the rights of children with AIDS. Nkosi also shared the jury’s prize, the World’s Children’s Prize, with Maiti Nepal, an organisation that struggles to prevent poor girls being smuggled from Nepal to India, where they are forced to be slaves in brothels. In 2003 James Aguer received the Global Friends’ Award. For 15 years James has liberated thousands of abducted children from forced labour in Sudan. James has been imprisoned 33 times and two of his colleagues have been murdered. The World’s Children’s Prize for 2003 was given to Maggy Barankitse who has saved tens of thousands of orphaned children from the war in Burundi and given them homes, love and schooling.
by Swedish Children's World Association