3 child activists shortlisted for World's Children's Prize

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New Delhi, Feb 23 (UNI) Josefina Condori of Peru fought for 15 years for girls working as maids in the town of Cusco in her country, often in slave-like conditions.

Wrenched from her family that struggled to eke out a survival, Condori had herself become a maid at the age of seven.

Agnes Stevens, of the US, has fought for homeless children in her country for 20 years. There are one million homeless children in the US. Agnes runs 'School on Wheels' for thousands of homeless children, with the help of hundreds of volunteer teachers.

Cambodia's Somaly Mam has been waging a spirited campaign for the past 12 years to save girls who are sold as slaves to brothels.

Somaly was herself a sex slave as a child. Her struggle has earned her many enemies and death threats. Her own 14 year-old daughter was kidnapped, raped and sold to a brothel.

The three children rights activists are the finalists for this year's World's Children's Prize for the Rights of the Child (WCPRC), with prize money totalling SEK one million (USD 140,000).

The WCPRC was founded by the Swedish organisation Children's World, and is a Swedish National Millennium Project. Its patrons include Queen Silvia of Sweden, Nobel Laureates Nelson Mandela and Joseph Stiglitz and former Executive Director of UNICEF Carol Bellamy.

Hailed as the world's largest educational initiative on democracy and children's rights, the WCPRC empowers children and young people all over the world so that they can make their voices heard and demand respect for their rights in accordance with the UN Child Convention.

During the WCPRC period, January 14-April 14, the students work with the prize magazine 'The Globe' and www.childrensworld.org, both now available in ten languages.

The students learn about the rights of the child and about the prize candidates work for those rights, before they organise the schools Global Vote Day.

Around 16 million students at 35,000 schools in 87 countries participate in the WCPRC, and 5.2 million of them participated in the Global Vote to determine the winners of the Global Friends' Award 2007.

More than six million children, including 1.5 million students in 6,000 Indian schools, are expected to vote in 2008. The participating children include abused girls and former child soldiers from Kongo Kinshasa's war-torn Kivu province, orphaned children of Rwanda's genocide, former debt slaves in Pakistan's Singh province and also children orphaned by AIDS in Kenya.

An international child jury, consisting of children who are experts on the rights of the child through their own experiences as soldiers, refugees, street children or slaves, chooses the recipient of the other major award, the World's Children's Prize.

Rakesh Kumar, 13, from India is a jury member and represents children in hazardous labour, slave children and children who 'don't exist' because their births were never registered.

The prize money is to be used in the recipients' work for the rights of the child and will help some of the world's most vulnerable children. It is supported by Abraxis BioScience, AstraZeneca, ABN AMRO Bank and Banco Fonder.

This year's prize ceremony will be held on April 18 at Gripsholm Castle in Mariefred, Sweden where the three final candidates will be honoured. Queen Silvia will help the children to give away the prizes.

UNI SKS PJ HS1422

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