The awards ceremony will be held on 3 November. This year prizes went to individuals and associations fighting modern forms of slavery, including an Indian who saved 72,000 victims of trafficking and an NGO that freed 30,000 slave workers in Karnataka.
This year’s Mother Teresa Memorial Award, dedicated to the memory of the Saint of Kolkata, went to a number of people from India and abroad, including an Indian activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for his work against child labour, a US medical association fighting organ trafficking, especially in China; and an organisation that saves Yazidi women and girls exploited by the Islamic State (IS) group.
The Harmony Foundation announced the laureates’ names yesterday. The awards will be presented in Mumbai on 3 November. According to the Foundation, which established the prize, awardees are social activists renowned for their humanitarian work against modern forms of slavery and for victim rehabilitation.
At present, slavery is a sad reality that afflicts millions of people around the world. Today’s forms include child labour, child exploitation, sexual exploitation, slavery, forced labour, organ removal and trafficking.
For Dr Abraham Mathai, founder and chairman of the Harmony Foundation, “Slavery is a man-made curse on humanity and affects us all.”
There are in fact, 40.3 million slavery victims in the world; 71 per cent of them are women and children. This means that 10,000 people must be rescued every day to eradicate slavery over the next decade.
The 2019 laureates are:
Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, for fighting child labour and trafficking in India and Southeast Asia;
Robert Bilheimer from the United States, for using his skills as a filmmaker to raise awareness about modern forms of slavery and inspiring the fight against them;
Junior Nzita Nsuami, a former child soldier, for leading an international campaign through the United Nations against the use of child soldiers in wars;
Ajeet Singh, for efforts to create the first red-light area in India free of commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Other winners are:
Alezandra Russell, founder of Urban Light, for helping neglected and ignored young boys in the red-light districts of Thailand;
Hasina Kharbhih, from India and founder of Impulse Empower, for rescuing and empowering more than 72,000 vulnerable victims from the fate of human trafficking;
Rob Williams, CEO of WarChild UK, for persistently protecting and supporting children in armed conflicts in some of the most hostile regions in the world;
Priti Patkar, activist and social worker from India, for his holistic approach in trying to abolish intergenerational prostitution”.
Four associations also received awards:
DAFOH-USA, for raising awareness over the decades in the medical community and civil society about unethical organ harvesting, especially in China;
Free A Girl, for uniquely reintegrating former sex workers into civil society by training them to become future advocates;
JEEVIKA, for freeing more than 30,000 bonded labourers and for its commitment to the total eradication of the practice in Karnataka;
Office for the Rescue of Yazidis, for working in one of the most hostile regions in the world to rescue all vulnerable Yazidi women and girls from the evil clutches of the Islamic State group.