Founding President and Executive Director, Visayan Forum Foundation
Ma. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda is the Founder and President of the Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc.
VF is a globally celebrated non-government organization in the Philippines innovating solutions to end modern-day slavery. The organization focuses on promoting the rights, welfare, and development of marginalized persons, especially those in the invisible and informal sectors, like domestic workers, and trafficked women and children.
Cecilia hails from Bacolod City in Negros Occidental. Born out of poverty, even at the tender age of 5, Cecilia learned the harsh realities of child labor as she walked the streets of her home town peddling fish.
Ceciia spent most of her life as a freedom fighter and worked with the urban poor, peasants, sugar plantation workers, women, youth and children. Because of her struggle, she became a political prisoner for four years under the Marcos dictatorship. She was released from detention as a result of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution. Immediately after her release, she started working on the blueprint for the Visayan Forum Foundation.
She is presently the Convenor of the Multi-Sectoral Network Against Trafficking in Persons, a national alliance of civil society, government and private groups that provides immediate response mechanisms in the prevention of trafficking, prosecution of offenders, and protection, rescue, recovery and reintegration of trafficked persons.
Cecilia is a globally recognized human rights advocate and international expert on human trafficking, child labor and domestic work. She received the 2005 Anti-Slavery Award given by the Anti-Slavery International and was recognized by the United Kingdom Government as one of the Modern-Day Abolitionists during the celebration of the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 2007.
In 2008, the Skoll Foundation conferred her with the Award for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. She was also named by the US Department of State as one of its Heroes Acting to End Modern-Day Slavery in its 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report. She was also presented with the first Iqbal Masih Award for the Elimination of Child Labor by the United States Department of Labor.
Recently, Cecilia was named one of the 2011 winners of the World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child in Sweden. She was also conferred with the 2011 Caritas Prix Award from Caritas-Switzerland for her exemplary work in preventing child labor, prostitution and trafficking in poor communities.
She is currently serving as member of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, as an appointee of the President of the Republic of the Philippines for the Women’s Sector.