NEW YORK, NY (December 5, 1995) -- Students from the Broad Meadows
middle school in Quincy, Massachusetts today received the 1995 Reebok Human
Rights Youth In Action Award at the eighth annual Reebok Human Rights Award
ceremony at the Apollo Theatre in New York City.
The students received this year's Youth In Action Award in recognition and support of a year-long campaign in honor of 12-year-old Iqbal Masih, the Pakistani boy who escaped from a life of slavery to become a human rights activist for the millions of enslaved Pakistani children.
Masih, the recipient of the 1994 Reebok Human Rights Youth In Action Award, visited the Broad Meadows school during his brief stay in the United States last December. Iqbal shocked and outraged the students as he recalled how he was sold into slavery at the age of 4. For the next six years, Iqbal spent 10 hours a day making carpets. He was often times tortured, physically and verbally abused and, at times, chained to his loom. He told the students of his life's mission: to free Pakistan's 7.5 million bonded children. Broad Meadows students quickly responded to Iqbal's visit with a letter writing campaign aimed at heads of governments where child bonded labor exists, demanding the immediate abolition of child slavery. In addition to writing 670 letters, the 10 to 14-year-old students wrote or phoned 60 local carpet stores in their region to determine the stores' policies regarding carpets imported from countries utilizing child labor.
On April 16, Easter Sunday, 1995, Iqbal Masih was murdered while riding a bicycle in his native village. In an immediate response to his death, Broad Meadows students vowed to keep Iqbal's memory alive and conceived a fundraising campaign in honor of the slain human rights crusader. The campaign, "A School for Iqbal", was created to raise money to build a school for Pakistani children, a dream Iqbal shared with the students during his visit to the school.
The "A School for Iqbal" campaign invites students at other schools to donate $12, a symbolic figure because Iqbal was 12 when he died and was sold into slavery for $12.
To date, the campaign has received more than 600 donations from all 50 states and six countries, totaling more than $25,000. Word of the campaign is being spread via a World Wide Web site on the Internet and other fundraising vehicles. While such notables as former President Jimmy Carter, U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy and R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe have given their endorsement and support to the campaign, most donations have come from students at other schools. Donations will be accepted through April, 1996, the one-year anniversary of Iqbal's murder.
When Iqbal received last year's Youth In Action Award, The Reebok Foundation earmarked $10,000 to help him realize his dream of becoming an attorney. To support the efforts of the students in commemorating Masih's life, The Reebok Foundation announced at today's ceremony its decision to reallocate Iqbal's $10,000 award to the "A School For Iqbal" campaign. In addition, the Foundation donated an additional $2,000, increasing the donation to $12,000 in recognition of the symbolic figure, 12.
"The youngsters at Broad Meadows have truly set an example for all of us, inspired us," said Sharon Cohen, Reebok Vice President of Public Affairs. "At a time when so many people are throwing up their hands in despair at the young generation, we can all feel encouraged by what these young people have accomplished."
The Broad Meadows middle school has long been involved in human rights. The school has a curriculum which is a model for human rights education at the middle school level. Ron Adams, the Broad Meadows social studies teacher who created the curriculum, teaches his students to take action to change injustices they study and to take these actions on an international, national and local level.
Established in 1988, the Reebok Human Rights Award recognizes young people on the front lines of human rights work, who -- early in their lives and against great odds -- have had a significant impact in their communities.
The Broad Meadows middle school campaign can be accessed on the World Wide Web site at http://mirrorimage.com/mirror/ iqbal.html