Our Founder

Cecilia Flores-Oebanda

vf-profile-photo-ma-cecilia-flores-oebanda

Ma. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, Cecilia to friends and “Nanay Day” to the girls she res-
cued from slavery and human trafficking, is the Founding President of the
Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc. (VF ) — a globally celebrated non-government or-
ganization in the Philippines, innovating solutions to end modern slavery. VF
promotes and protects the rights, welfare, and development of marginalized and
vulnerable persons, especially domestic workers, women, and children that they may be free, protected and empowered to explore opportunities without the risk of slavery and exploitation.

Cecilia hails from Bacolod City in the Visayas region of the Philippines. Born out of poverty, she learned the harsh realities of child labor at a very young age as she walked the streets of her hometown peddling fish.  Cecilia has spent most of her life as a freedom fighter – working with the urban poor, peasants, sugar plantation workers, women, youth and children. As a young adult, she dedicated her life to the Church as a Catechist. During which, she saw the affliction of her people under the tyranny of then President Ferdinand Marcos. Driven by a strong love for the poor, she joined the struggle for liberation and became one of its most respected leaders; the dictatorship long-sought her capture. While pregnant with her second child, she was captured. Cecilia became a political prisoner for four years. She was released after the EDSA People Power Revolution, and since then worked on Visayan Forum’s blueprint, believing that it was her calling to continue to liberate God’s people from one form of abuse and exploitation, to another.

Cecil is a globally recognized human rights advocate and expert on human trafficking, child labor and domestic work. In May 2013, CNN International and The CNN Freedom Project aired its first 2-hour film entitled “The Fighters” which chronicles her work in rescuing vulnerable persons from human trafficking, transform- ing survivors’ lives, and engaging strategic partners to advance the cause. CNN believes that the film features the realities, struggles and triumphs of fighting modern slavery through the “eyes of those risk- ing their lives so that others may live theirs in freedom.”

She serves as member of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), as a representative of the Women’s Sector.

Cecilia was named Anti-Trafficking in Persons Hero in the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, released on June 4, 2008. 

AWARDS AND CITATIONS

  • Anti-Slavery Award from Anti-Slavery International, 2005
  • Modern-day Abolitionist from the United Kingdom Government, 2007
  • Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship from the Skoll Foundation, 2008
  • Hero Acting to End Modern-day Slavery from the US Department of State, 2008
  • First Iqbal Masih Award for the Elimination of Child Labor from the US Department of Labor, 2008
  • Honorary Awardee of World Children’s Prize, 2011
  • Caritas Prix Award from Caritas Switzerland, 2011
  • TrustLaw Connect Impact Award from the Thomson Reuters Foundation, 2013
  • Child 10 Award from Reach for Change, 2015
  • Finalist for Anti-Trafficking Award from Trust Women and Thomson Reuters Foundation, 2015

 

Award Ceremony of The World's Children's Prize for the Rights of the Child 2011. Photo by Sofia Marcetic.