VF head wins award for championing children’s rights

By Jennifer Catan-Tilos

NEGROS ORIENTAL (PIA) –  Visayan Forum (VF) president and multi-awarded Filipina anti-trafficking advocate Cecilia Oebanda was named one of this year’s Child 10 (C10) Awardees by the Sophie Stenbeck Family Foundation and Reach for Change.

VF Negros coordinator Dondee Señeris announced this recently as he said Oebanda once again brought honor to the Philippines as one of the awardees for C10 global leaders who fight against child trafficking.

“Once a child laborer herself, Oebanda served underprivileged and marginalized farmers, sugar plantation workers (Sacada) and urban poor as a catechist. She was imprisoned during the Marcos regime and raised two of her four children behind bars. Upon her release at the end of the dictatorship, Cecilia started building Visayan Forum (VF) as an anti-slavery and anti-trafficking organization,” related Señeris.

VF is a Philippine-based internationally recognized nonprofit innovating solution to end modern slavery.

Established in 1991, VF seeks to build a society where people are free, protected, and empowered to explore opportunities without the risk of exploitation and slavery.

VF represents the women’s sector in both national and local’s Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), said Señeris.

He added the VF works alongside law enforcers, government agencies, and transport groups to intercept potential human trafficking attempts.

The VF also operates shelters and a safe house to protect and heal survivors.

Señeris said its institution engages in trafficking prevention efforts such as raising awareness, providing economic vulnerable groups empowerment opportunities, and creating community watch mechanisms.

Further, VF conducts research, mainstreams best practices among key stakeholders, and advocates for policy reform.

VF played a crucial role in lobbying for the passage of landmark laws such as the Domestic Workers’ Act of 2012.

VF is also known for inspiring people into action. Its latest successful model for social movement building is iFIGHT, a movement that equips, trains and empowers the youth to end modern slavery. In 2013, Cecilia and iFight were featured by The CNN Freedom Project in “The Fighters”.

Cecilia Oebanda is the first Filipino to receive the award. Past Child10 Awardees include James Kofi Annan of Challenging Heights in Ghana, and Oby Ezekwesili of #BringBackOurGirls Campaign.

“There are many challenges when you’re fighting on the ground, and certainly these can take their toll on us. But VF’s work for almost 25 years can speak for itself: no matter what struggles we faced, we chose to fight. We share this success with our partners in the government, civil society, private sector, faith-based groups, schools, and communities, without whom VF would not have been able to save countless lives. The world is noticing how we have intensified our work and our collective gains in the fight. This award is for us all,” Oebanda said.

Oebanda received the award from with David Bussau, Chairman of the Board of Visayan Forum, on November 9, 2015 during the Child10 (C10) Summit and Awarding Ceremony at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden. (mbcn/jct/PIA7-Negros Oriental/This article was first published at PIA website on Nov. 17, 2015)

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