Skoll Foundation


Visayan Forum Foundation

Skoll Entrepreneur(s): Cecilia Flores-Oebanda
Award Year: 2008
Focus Area(s) Addressed: Education and Economic Opportunity

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Cecilia spent her childhood as a child laborer, selling fish and scavenging garbage to help her family survive. After fighting against the Marcos dictatorship as an insurgent, she was imprisoned with her husband for 4 years and separated from her oldest son for 12 years while her 2 other children were born in captivity. When the democracy that she fought for was finally achieved, Cecilia founded the Visayan Forum Foundation (VF) in 1991 to help people achieve the freedom to live a decent life.


  • Following a two-year CNN investigation, the two-hour documentary “The Fighters” aired in May 2013. It chronicled Flores-Oebanda in her journey to protect children from the sex trade and convince the Philippines’ biggest star, Manny Pacquiao, to join her as a fighter in the battle against modern-day slavery. From the film, the iFight campaign was born.
  • It’s estimated more than 100,000 children work in the sex trade in the Philippines. Since founding Visayan Forum, Flores-Oebanda has helped more than 70,000 victims or potential victims of human trafficking.
  • In Jan. 2013, the Philippines signed into law landmark legislation protecting the rights of domestic workers – 20 years in the making. Visayan played a critical role in development and passage of this legislation.
  • On August 6, 2012, the Philippine senate voted unanimously to concur with the ratification of the UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 189, which recognizes and protects the rights of domestic workers. The Philippines thus became the second country to ratify ILO Convention 189 (after Uruguay in June 2012). Article 21 of the ILO Convention provides that it shall come into force one year after the date on which the ratification of two members has been registered, and the Philippines—and Visayan Forum—has thus played a critical role inbringing it to force.
  • The anti-trafficking strategies of Visayan Foundation Forum of rescue, rehabilitation, healing and reintegration now reach eight major seaports and three local and international airports. We expanded partnerships to 52 inter-island shipping liners average of 300,000 passengers a month. We work with 2 airline companies running 70 local and international flights and 2,000 bus companies that average 126,000 passengers a month, travelling along known human trafficking routes.
  • VF has also partnered with government agencies, lawyer groups, law enforcement and other stakeholders in key transit areas. VF and its partners have reached out to 61,836 trafficking victims and potential victims.
  • From 2006 to January 2010, 19,975 people graduated from the VF-led Step Up program, which teaches life skills, entrepreneurship and IT skills to victims of trafficking. 35% of these are gainfully employed and 30% pursued further studies.



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