Grassroots organisations Avani and Challenging Heights win Juliette Gimon Courage Awards


Alliance magazine


The Global Fund for Children today announced the winners of its 2020 Juliette Gimon Courage Awards, recognising innovative grassroots organisations Avani in India and Challenging Heights in Ghana for work to advance children’s rights despite extreme challenges. The two winning organisations are led by survivors of forced child labour and modern slavery who have dedicated their careers to protecting other young people from the same injustices.

Avani and Challenging Heights were selected for their courageous work from among 14 award finalists that have confronted death threats, defied the Taliban to operate secret girls’ schools, and helped children with disabilities climb mountains. The winners have channelled adversity into their causes, boldly pursuing justice for children worldwide.

In India, there are more than 10 million child labourers, and more than 35,000 children work in brickyards and other industries in the district of Kolhapur, where Avani’s Children’s Project focuses. Surrounded by dangerous working conditions and death threats from employers of child labour, Avani rescues children from Kolhapur’s brickyards and sugarcane farms and coordinates their comprehensive rehabilitation – providing them with safe shelter, food, education, and more.

Avani Vice-chair and founder Anuradha Bhosale was forced into domestic labor herself at the age of six. Now a recognized grassroots activist, she and Avani’s staff work fearlessly to end child exploitation.

‘This award affirms that the plight of countless children being rescued from child labour, trafficking, and early marriage has now been brought to light,’ Bhosale said.

In Ghana, over 1.8 million young people are engaged in child labour, and 20,000 of them are children trafficked into modern slavery in Lake Volta’s fishing industry, where Challenging Heights works. At great personal peril, Challenging Heights staff and volunteers rescue children from slavery and provide them with comprehensive rehabilitation services. The organization works extensively with families of former child slaves to ensure that they can safely and permanently reintegrate into their communities.

James Kofi Annan, founder and president of Challenging Heights, was trafficked to Lake Volta when he was six years old, spending seven years there in modern slavery. Now an international advisor on child rights, he and the Challenging Heights team are determined to end child trafficking in Ghana.

‘For me, courage is the willingness to confront injustice for the good of our common humanity, harnessing our impacts for our continued progress,’ Annan said.

Global Fund for Children gives the annual Courage Awards through the Juliette Gimon Fund for Courageous Leadership – a more than $1 million endowment made possible by William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and other donors – in honour of Juliette Gimon. A former Board Chair of Global Fund for Children, Juliette passed away on February 24, 2018. Her wisdom, insights, and profound concern for children helped shape Global Fund for Children, changing hundreds of thousands of young lives across the globe.

‘We’re thrilled to recognize Avani and Challenging Heights for the courage they demonstrate in their work to end child trafficking and forced labor in their communities,’ said John Hecklinger, President and CEO of Global Fund for Children. “Their dedication honours Juliette Gimon’s legacy and her work to inspire positive change for children around the world.’

About Global Fund for Children & Global Fund for Children UK Trust

Global Fund for Children partners to build a world where all children and youth enjoy equal resources and opportunities in society and live free from violence, discrimination, and exploitation. To that end, GFC invests in innovative local organizations, helping them deepen their impact and build their capacity for social change. Together, GFC and its partners advance the rights of children and youth facing poverty and injustice and equip them with the tools and skills to reach their full potential. Since 1997, Global Fund for Children has invested $44 million in more than 700 organisations, reaching more than 11 million children and youth worldwide.

In February, Global Fund for Children co-hosted Gender Childhood and Youth on the move, which was covered by Alliance.

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