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13.10.2008 Social News

Former child slave to embark on anti-child slavery project


Mr James Kofi Annan, winner of the Frederick Douglas Award for 2008 at the recent Freedom Awards in the United States, has earmarked his prize money to intensify efforts at contributing to and saving more Ghanaian children from slavery, trafficking and other worse forms of child labour (WFCL).

Mr Annan, who was himself a child slave from age of six to 13, won the award for distinguishing himself as a single individual, who survived the scourges of child trafficking and slavery and had been working to contribute towards the freedom of other children.

He had since his freedom, been assisting even parents and guardians of other freed children to improve upon their knowledge in child-trafficking and to have improved lives.

As part of his award, Mr Annan, who is the Founder and Chief Executive of Challenging Heights, an anti-child slavery Non-Governmental Organisation, was decorated by the South African Human Rights activist and Nobel Laureate, Bishop Desmond Tutu, at a breathtaking ceremony in Los Angeles, USA in September.

He was also presented with an amount of US$10,000 specifically for training and capacity building and to expand his work in saving and helping child slaves and their guardians.

He would also be presented with another US$10,000 to be delivered over a period of two years for a project of his choice.

Mr Annan told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that he had chosen to use the money to deepen his effort at what had become his passion, saving and helping trafficked children and child slaves, adding that part of the money would be invested in deepening awareness for action on child trafficking issues across the country.

He said he would also improve upon his organisational capacity and logistics, adding that another very important aspect for Challenging Heights was to provide more learning and teaching aids to assist in stimulation at the kindergarten level of their school for deprived children.

Again, Mr Annan said part of the money would go into a number of meaningful motivational packages for volunteers, who work with Challenging Heights, to work towards improving networking and alliance extension with other relevant organisations as well as stakeholders to enable him learn and share.

Mr Emmanuel Otoo, West Africa Regional Coordinator of Free The Slaves (FTS), organisers of the Freedom Awards, told the GNA that Mr Annan was among other winners in various categories, including the William Wilberforce Award for an individual, who had played a leadership role in moving other institutions, including corporate organisations to join the fight against trafficking and slavery.

He said other awards he had received included the Harriet Tubman Award for a community-based organisation working directly within communities to make the most significant and transformative contribution to ending slavery as well as the Anne Templeton Zimmerman Award of two fellowships to two young adult anti-slavery activists.

Mr Otoo noted that even though lots of individual Ghanaians and organisations had been involved in making important and laudable contributions toward the progressive and sustainable elimination of human trafficking and modern day slavery, not many Ghanaians filed for the Freedom Awards, which acknowledged winners globally and provided exposure as well as financial and technical support to undertake specific trafficking and anti-slavery interventions.

The Frederick Douglas Award, which Mr Annan won, came with US$20,000, the Harriet Tubman Award came with came with US$55,000 for an organisation, the William Wilberforce Award had a financial package of US$10,000, whiles the Anne Templeton Zimmerman fellowship afforded the winners one year fellowship with US$35,000 salary and other training and travelling packages.

Mr Otoo, therefore, called on individuals and organisations focusing their attention, time and resources on trafficking and anti-slavery, to take advantage of Mr Annan's honour this year and file for their nominations in subsequent awards, beginning from next year.

“Each award has its own requirements and nomination form, which can be found on the awards web pages, or by emailing us at [email protected],” he said.

He said the deadline for nominations was Monday December 1, 2008, adding that nominations received after that date would not be considered for the 2009 awards.

Mr Otoo noted that FTS created the Freedom Awards to celebrate today's anti-slavery heroes and to catalyse additional innovation and resources to end slavery once and for all, saying that the scheme was carefully designed to define what successful, sustainable anti-slavery work looked like and also build a vision of freedom for change-makers to adopt.
He said the benefits to the Award winners themselves, were expected to expand capacity and reach people at the grassroots, promote anti-slavery programmes, proliferate creative and transformative leadership, strengthen the infrastructure of modern anti-slavery movements and also to provide inspirations and hope to fuel anti-slavery movement.

Mr Otoo, therefore, urged all stakeholders such as governments, charitable institutions, communities, the private sector/businesses, traditional authorities, faith-based organisations, research institutions, individuals among others to make a commitment and work towards the sustainable elimination of human trafficking and all forms of child labour in Ghana and in West Africa.