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Global March Against Child Labour - From Exploitation to Education

Bal Ashram Boy wins International Children’s Peace Prize

A 14-year-old Indian boy has been awarded the International Children's Peace Prize for leading a campaign against child labour and child slavery.

“This is our right - that (adults) have to listen. This is children's rights. And if they are not abiding with that right, we will work harder to make them hear.” Om Prakash

Sunday afternoon November 19, the International Children’s Peace Prize was awarded to Om Prakash Gurjar in the center of Dutch Government in The Hague, The Netherlands. The fourteen-year-old boy from the Jaipur region in India, won the prize because of his brave fight against child labour and child slavery. The Children’s Peace Prize was awarded by Frederik Willem De Klerk, former President of South Africa, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize together with Nelson Mandela.

Speaking through an interpreter, Om reminded adults that they have a duty to listen to children. “This is our right - that they have to listen. This is children's rights. And if they are not abiding with that right, we will work harder to make them hear.”

Om Prakash Gurjar was taken away from his parents at the age of five and went through three years of child slavery. After he was rescued by the activist of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, he was taken care of in Bal Ashram (a transit rehabilitation centre for former child labourers run by Bachpan Bachao Andolan) and was able to go to school. From the moment Om Prakash started living in this refuge, he initiated several remarkable activities to bring attention to children’s rights. For instance, he successfully fought against the unlawful contributions the poorest parents often still had to pay to let their children go to school. The result was that in the whole state of Rajasthan, education became accessible to all children. He also helped making many villages “Child Friendly”, meaning that all children’s rights are respected there and that child labour is not accepted. Moreover, he campaigned so that parents would get their children birth certificates, which protects their children from exploitation and gives them the right to health care and education. On his own, he arranged for more than 500 of such official documents, thus saving these children from the fate that was once his own. He says such registration is the first step towards enshrining children's rights, proving their age, and helping to protect them from slavery, trafficking, forced marriage or serving as a child soldiers.

The International Children’s Peace Prize is awarded every year to an exceptional child, who has bravely devoted him- or herself to children’s rights. The prize consists of a statuette, the “Nkosi” and a monetary award of $100.000, to be used by a children’s project. The statuette is named after young Nkosi Johnson, who was dedicated the prize posthumously in 2005, four years after he died of Aids at the age of 12. During his short life, he fought so bravely and very successfully for the rights of children with HIV/AIDS.

The International Children’s Peace Prize was launched in 2005 in Rome by the KidsRights Foundation in conjunction with Nobel Peace Prize Laureates headed by Mikhail Gorbachev. The Prize gives a voice to the voiceless: Aids orphans, child prostitutes, child slaves, street kids and other vulnerable children get a stage to tell their stories to the world. Initiator KidsRights is active around the world supporting children who are on the edge of society.

Sunday evening November 19, Om Prakash Gurjar was honoured on Dam Square in Amsterdam during a spectacular and free open-air concert in the centre of Amsterdam. Top artists including UB40, the Sugababes, Bløf, Zucchero, Lucie Silvas, Sarah Brightman, Ilse DeLange, and many others, will perform to raise awareness for the rights of vulnerable children worldwide.

 

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