Rescuer of Congolese child sex slaves honoured in Sweden

Rescuer of Congolese child sex slaves honoured in Sweden
Murhabazi Namegabe of the Democratic Republic of Congo Tuesday was awarded a children's rights prize for his "long perilous struggle" to free child soldiers and sex slaves in his homeland.

Some 3.2 million children around the world voted to give the 2011 World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child to Namegabe, who over 20 years has waged “his dangerous struggle to free children forced to be child soldiers or sex slaves,” organisers said.

“Since 1989, Murhabazi and his organisation BVES has freed 4,000 child soldiers and more than 4,500 girls who have been sexually assaulted by armed groups, and taken care of 4,600 unaccompanied refugee children,” they said in a statement.

In all some 60,000 children have been helped to date by BVES, which today runs “35 homes and schools that offer some of the world’s most vulnerable children food, clothes, a home, healthcare, therapy, the opportunity to go to school, security and love,” the prize jury said.

“Murhabazi’s life is constantly threatened because of his work for children,” it said, pointing out that “he has been imprisoned and assaulted and is constantly receiving death threats. Seven of his colleagues have been killed.”

Namegabe himself told AFP Tuesday he was “very surprised” by the prize.

“It is a great pleasure to be recognised by the children of the world for the work we do … to protect children from war in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” he said.

His organisation BVES (Bureau pour le Volontariat au Service de l’Enfance et de la Sante) is a French acronym meaning office of voluntary service for childhood and health.

Namegabe had been in the running for the prize with Cecilia Flore-Oebanda from the Philippines, who works against child labour and trafficking, and Monira Rahman from Bangladesh, who works with victims of acid attacks.

They were both handed the World’s Children’s Honorary Award.

The laureates will receive their awards, worth a total of $100,000 from Sweden’s Queen Silvia at a prize ceremony on Thursday.

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