Taking Children Seriously

The World’s Children’s Prize

“Today — we celebrate. Tomorrow, we roll up our sleeves and get back to work. We wish to tell all of the world’s children — you were born in the right place, at the right time, because we were there for you, Sweden was there for you, and those who won the lottery of life did not forget our little brothers and sisters.”

- John Wood at the World’s Children’s Prize Award Ceremony

Often called the “Nobel Prize for Children,” the World’s Children’s Prize is the most distinguished award for children’s organizations because it is decided by the most important people in the sector…children. Being serious about helping children starts with taking children seriously, and this prize does just that.

The prize seeks to educate children about their rights and empower them to claim those rights. First, three heroes of children’s rights are nominated by the Child Jury. The child jury includes representatives of children from around the globe who are experts on the rights of children because of their own experiences of having those rights violated. The Global Vote for the winner of the World’s Children’s Prize takes place in democratic and non-democratic countries all over the world. Children learn about a fair and safe democratic process and then initiate and organize the casting of ballots through their schools. With millions of child voters added every year, more than 36 million children have been involved.

Our very own founder, John Wood, was honored to receive an honorary award as a World’s Children’s Prize Laureate along with Indira Ranamagar and Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai.

Below you can read John’s acceptance speech at the award ceremony:

“Your Majesty, Prime Minister, Representatives of the Swedish Government, global friends, children here and around the world, and especially to my fellow honorees — Indira and Malala — my sisters who are also struggling to create a better world: Good evening.

I am both honored and humbled to be accepting this award on behalf of the Room to Read team, and the nearly nine million children in over 18,000 communities in 10 countries who have already benefited from our education programs. Our team will celebrate — for one day. And then we will go right back to work. We’re all too aware that over 250 million children around the world are not learning. The majority live in poor countries, and 2/3 are girls. Through no fault of their own, they were born “in the wrong place, at the wrong time,” and they are not getting an education. The odds are stacked against them from the day they are born, and they risk being one more generation to live in abject poverty. Room to Read started from humble beginnings, but with a passionate belief that these children deserve better. To paraphrase an Urdu poet: “I walked alone at night into the desert. Later, I turned back and saw a long string of lights. Many others had joined. We had become a caravan.” I wish to invite all of you to join our caravan. Working together, we can get so much more done. Our team is proud of our results to date, while simultaneously being passionately focused on the fact that there are tens of millions of children across the developing world whom we have not reached. Every day we lose is a day we cannot get back. This award gives all of Room to Read’s 1,000+ employees and 13,000 volunteers additional motivation. Today — we celebrate. Tomorrow, we roll up our sleeves and get back to work. We do not intend to lose to the dark forces in today’s world — poverty, apathy, misogyny and terrorism.

We wish to tell all of the world’s children — you were born in the right place, at the right time, because we were there for you, Sweden was there for you, and those who won the lottery of life did not forget our little brothers and sisters. I invite you to join our caravan, and I humbly thank you for honoring our team.”


Originally published at blog.roomtoread.org on October 30, 2014.

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