2004 HUMANITARIAN AWARD
In the face of heavy adversity, Philista Onyango, Ph.D., has made a tremendous impact on the safety and welfare of children in her home country of Kenya, and on Africa and the world.
In 1981, while teaching at the University of Nairobi, she became aware that many children were being abused through child labor. In 1982, she conducted a study on child labor in Kenya, the first of its kind in Africa. From the onset, she and her fellow researchers met a lot of resistance from leaders, including the President at the time, who declared there was no child labor in Kenya. This began a long campaign and many hardships that finally led to the creation of the African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN) in 1986.
Since then, ANPPCAN has worked with the African Union (AU) to address issues of children in situations of armed conflict, which led to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Committee of Experts on Children in Africa. ANPPCAN has observer status with the AU and the Commission on People and Human Rights and has established chapters in 19 African countries with the 20th being established in Rwanda.
Onyango initiated Home Based Day-care Centers in Nairobi slums to protect the children while providing them with affordable education. She initiated Community Organization Training after research showed that most of the street children came from the slums because of the appalling living conditions. This training helped slum areas improve sanitation, drinking water and their environments as well as address the education needs for their children. She also initiated the formation of the Coalition on Child Rights and Child Protection in Kenya. Child protection teams have been created in 30 districts.
Through ANPPCAN and Onyango’s dedication to the protection of children, thousands of children in Kenya and throughout Africa have been able to get off the streets and thousands more have been saved from abuse and child labor.