ANNA Mollel of Sanawari, Arusha, was on May 25 awarded a children's rights prize for her work in helping thousands of Maasai children with disabilities to live dignified lives.
Mollel and two runners-up received their awards, worth a total of $100,000 at Gripsholm Castle, west of Stockholm, last Wednesday evening in the presence of Sweden's Queen Silvia and children from 15 countries.
The World's Children's Prize was founded in Sweden in 2000 and is today supported by approximately 58,000 schools and 27 million students from 107 countries. A majority of the 2.5 million children around the world who participated in the selection of this year's winner voted to give the 2012 World's Children's Prize to Mollel, "for her over 20-year struggle for children with disabilities in poor rural areas in northern Tanzania," organizers said.
"Thanks to Anna and her organization 'Huduma ya Walemavu,' thousands of children with disabilities have a chance to live a life with dignity. They get medical care, operations, physiotherapy, therapy, wheelchairs and other aids, a chance to go to school, safety and love," the organizers' statement said.
Since 1990, Mollel and her organization have helped some 12,500 children belonging to the semi-nomadic Masaai people who live in Kenya and northern Tanzania, the prize-awarding jury noted."These are children who would have been neglected, abandoned and could even have died if it hadn't been for Anna's struggle for their rights," it stressed.
"To be honoured, supported and loved by children makes me feel something that I cannot even express. This prize programme is restoring the souls of children and gives strength to those who have struggled," said Mollel.
Mollel received the most prestigious award for contributions to the rights of the child, the World's Children's Prize, for her more than 20-year struggle for Maasai children with disabilities.The patrons of the World's Children's Prize include Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi and Sweden's Queen Silvia. At this year's award ceremony, Desmond Tutu, the defiant archbishop who fought the apartheid regime and has been a human rights champion for many years, joined the patrons.
At the ceremony, tribute was also paid to Sakena Yacoobi from Afghanistan, for her long and often life-threatening fight for girls' right to education. She, along with Ann Skelton from South Africa, received the World's Children's Honorary Award. Ann Skelton was recognized for her 25-year battle for the rights of children affected by the justice system.
"This prize breaks the isolation of the children of Afghanistan and connects them to other children in the world. Many people only know that Afghanistan has war, not that there are children living their lives and getting education for making a change," observed Sakena Yacoobi.
"It is very special that children vote. I feel honoured by the fact that it is children who brought us here. I am also honoured that this prize is the fruit of an education for democracy. That this gives children the possibility to practise in a democratic process," noted Ann Skelton.
Mollel told reporters that she was picked for top prizes because of her dedication to the welfare of disabled children as well as for her opposition to outdated traditions, which marginalize these children. The prize-giving ceremony will take place in Sweden on Monday next week, she said.
Mollel explained that she will spend the money to expand the Engiranyati children's centre, which was set up specifically for disabled children and for orphans whose parents have died of HIV/AIDS.