Washington — A Ghanaian advocate for vulnerable children has been recognized by the U.S. government for his work.
George Achibra has won the U.S. Department of Labor's 2012 Iqbal Masih Award for the Elimination of Child Labor, Acting Deputy Under Secretary of Labor for International Affairs Carol Pier announced in a February 28 Labor Department press release.
Achibra received the award from U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Gene A. Cretz at a ceremony in Accra.
Achibra was selected for his work in rescuing hundreds of children from child labor and child trafficking in impoverished fishing communities in Ghana. A former schoolteacher, Achibra founded the Partnership for Community Development to provide services to trafficked children and raise awareness about child labor and human trafficking laws.
In announcing the award, Pier said: "Children exploited in Ghana's fishing industry face unacceptable perils -- such as drowning because they cannot swim and must dive into deep water to untangle fishing nets. Children trafficked into this industry are especially vulnerable to injury or death.
"This award honors George Achibra's selfless dedication in helping such children escape from harm and find new hope for their future."
The U.S. Congress established the Iqbal Masih Award for the Elimination of Child Labor in 2009 to recognize exceptional efforts by an individual, company, organization or national government to end the worst forms of child labor. It also seeks to raise international awareness about the worst forms of child labor.
The nonmonetary award honors the spirit of Iqbal Masih, a Pakistani child sold into bonded labor as a carpet weaver at age 4. He escaped his servitude and became an outspoken advocate of children's rights, drawing international attention in his fight against child labor. Masih was killed in Pakistan at age 13 in 1995.
The 2010 Iqbal Masih Award also went to an African recipient, the Firestone Agricultural Workers Union of Liberia (FAWUL). FAWUL persevered in the face of adversity, organized workers on the Firestone Rubber Plantation and gained international support for their mission to protect workers and their children on the rubber plantation. The organization succeeded in negotiating two collective bargaining agreements that banned child labor and improved conditions for adult workers on the plantation.
Since 1995, the Labor Department has supported global efforts to combat exploitative child labor internationally. The department solicits nominations for the Iqbal Masih Award from those who know "someone who has made a difference in the lives of children laboring in exploitative work" or those who have "worked with an organization or government which has gone above and beyond to assist child laborers," according to its website.
For more information about the Labor Department's work and the Iqbal Masih Award, visit the Bureau of International Labor Affairs' website.