Valeriu Nicolae, a Romanian Roma human rights activist working with underprivileged children, was honored by the World’s Children’s Prize “for his tireless efforts to support extremely vulnerable children in Romania’s Ferentari ghetto.”
The recipients of the World’s Children’s Prize (WCP) and World’s Children’s Honorary Awards are chosen in a global vote. The vote is part of the WCP program, which educates and empowers children to become change makers who stand up for human fellowship and the rights of the child, democracy and sustainable development.
Nicolae was nominated alongside Gabriel Mejía Montoya, who works with Colombia’s street children, child soldiers and children in prison, and Girls Are Not For Sale’s Rachel Lloyd, who works against the sexual exploitation of children. All three nominees have been named this year’s Child Rights Heroes, while Rachel Lloyd received the Swedish World’s Children’s Prize.
The Romanian activist received his distinction from Queen Silvia of Sweden (pictured), in a ceremony held at the Gripsholm Castle.
Nicolae began working in the capital’s Ferentari ghetto, Bucharest’s poorest, in 2010. When he started a club for children in the ghetto, hardly any children were attending school there. The Alternative Education Club became the focus of efforts to change the lives of some of Europe’s poorest children. There, children get help for school work, learn about their rights and get support to develop and live a good life. The poorest children are given shoes, clothes and sometimes food. Children who take drugs and/or are exploited are given support to exit the situation.
Nicolae founded the Policy Centre for Roma and Minorities, a Bucharest-based think tank, and co-founded the European Roma Policy Coalition. He worked as a state secretary at the Ministry of Labor, Family, Social Protection in the government of Dacian Cioloş. In 2016, he was appointed a special representative for Roma issues of the Council of Europe. He was awarded the European Parliament’s European Citizenship Award in 2013.
(Photo: World’s Children’s Prize Facebook Page)