4 laureates receive 2023 Ramon Magsaysay Award

Nillicent Bautista - Philstar.com
4 laureates receive 2023 Ramon Magsaysay Award
Past and present awardees of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation pose for a group photo, together with former senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr. and Foundation chairman Aurelio Luis Montinola III, during the 65th Ramon Magsaysay Awards presentation ceremonies at the Metropolitan Theater in Manila November 11, 2023
Miguel De Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — The four recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) this year were conferred “Asia’s premier prize and highest honor” at the Manila Metropolitan Theater on Saturday.

This year’s laureates are Miriam Coronel-Ferrer from the Philippines, Ravi Kannan R. from India, Eugenio Lemos from Timor-Leste, and Korvi Rakshand from Bangladesh.

In his speech during the awarding ceremony, RMAF chairman Aurelio Luis Montinola III said the award “celebrates the women, men and organizations that have passionately and tirelessly worked on preserving and cherishing our planet and its inhabitants on all fronts.”

“They are the visionaries and pioneers who carry the torch in humanity’s nature. They are the innovators who light up new paths that lead to our progress. They are the public servants, the activists, and the humanitarians who gather precious kindling and light the spark for peace and social justice,” Montinola added.

Coronel-Ferrer, the lone female recipient this year, was recognized for her “deep belief in the transformative power of nonviolent strategies in peace-building” and her strong “devotion to harnessing the power of women in creating a just and peaceful world.”

In 2012, Coronel-Ferrer became the first female chief negotiator of the country’s government peace panel tasked to negotiate with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

This eventually led to the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in 2014, ending the 17-year negotiation between the government and the MILF.

Coronel-Ferrer, who champions inclusivity in peacebuilding, also co-founded the Southeast Asian Women Peace Mediators, a pioneering group of women engaged in the field of mediation.

Another recipient of the award is Rakshand, a Bangladeshi who promotes inclusive quality education.

Rakshand was honored for his “visionary leadership in democratizing education and inspiring thousands of young people to heed the call of social transformation.”

In 2007, Rakshand together with his six friends established the JAAGO Foundation, which sought to provide accessible and quality education for underprivileged children.

Starting only with a classroom and 17 pupils, the JAAGO Foundation has grown into one of Bangladesh’s largest non-profit organizations, with 206 classrooms and 30,000 students.

It provides free-of-cost and government-recognized English-language primary and secondary education.

Meanwhile, Kannan is an Indian surgical oncologist who strongly advocates for inclusive cancer care for the poor.

The Indian doctor was honored for “his skill, commitment, and compassion in pushing the boundaries of people-centered, pro-poor health care and cancer care.”

In 2007, Kannan became the director of Cachar Cancer Hospital and Research Center in Assam, a rural region in India.

There, he learned that the compliance rate among poor patients was as low as 28 percent due to poverty. He realized that “the costs, the long distances and the resignation to the belief they can never be cured” demotivated impoverished patients to come back.

Driven by his strong compassion for the poor, Kannan and his team began adopting pro-poor initiatives, such as home care programs, free treatment, ad hoc employment, and food and lodging.

Through these institutional reforms, the cancer center became a full-fledged comprehensive hospital that now provides free or subsidized cancer care treatments to over 20,000 patients.

Patients’ compliance rate has also significantly increased to 70 percent.

Lemos, the fourth RM laureate, is a firm advocate of food sufficiency, environment conservation and local autonomy.

The Timorese was chosen for “his vision and passion in integrating local and indigenous cultures on his advocacy for the care of the environment and the well-being of people.”

In 2001, Lemos founded Permakultura Timor-Lorosa’e (Permatil), a youth camp that opened multiple avenues for Timor-Leste to be “self-reliant in terms of access to healthy and nutritious food.”

Over the years, the youth camp has trained more than 5,000 youth which led to the establishment of 250 schools, the revival of 300 springs, and the creation of over 1,000 water collection ponds, benefitting more than 400,000 Timorese.

The four newly conferred Ramon Magsaysay awardees have joined the foundation’s 344 laureates since it began 65 years ago.

During the awarding ceremony, the five recipients of the 2021 Ramon Magsaysay Award were also collectively honored. They were previously awarded remotely due to pandemic restrictions.

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