The winners of a major humanitarian award this year come from four different countries and shed light on four different issues. The Reebok Human Rights Awards have been around since 1988. Since then 84 people from the shoe company has honored 38 countries.
From prostitute to protector…From lawyer to libertarian…From astrophysicist to activist…And from journalist to advocate, the recipients of the Reebok Human Rights Awards for 2006 took journeys that transformed them as people, and changed the communities they serve.
The recipients are wise beyond their years. Nominees must be under 30 years old. The oldest recipient this year was a woman who drew attention to a human rights issue affecting thousands of young women in the United States.
The award was presented by actress Wanda Sykes. "They are children left to fend for themselves, left with no skills, no sense of self worth, no self support, no where to turn. They are the victims, but the justice system treats them as criminals. It's a life Rachel Lloyd knows all too well."
Rachel Lloyd, 30, left a dangerous life in the sex industry in England and Germany to dedicate her life to saving young girls still on the streets of New York through a program called the Girls Educational and Mentoring service, or GEMS.
"They come in with these really painful stories and these things that they've been through, and they make my life look pretty easy at this point, and when I meet 11 year olds who are being sold, even by their own family, and then they've been in jail for that… that's crazy!
Otto Saki, 24, of Zimbabwe accepts the risk of imprisonment and torture to fight for the rights of his/her countrymen. Saki runs a legal watchdog group that supports protestors, activists against the government of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, and people who have been evicted from their homes by the state.
"We are living in a fear society, where the expression of your views on it's own is close to being criminal, to the extent that those who share your views might be able to communicate with you but in a manner that is not public."
Khurram Pervez started out his college education in Kashmir planning to be a journalist.
But a landmine placed on a road he was traveling in 2004, while serving as an election monitor, changed those plans.
Two friends traveling with him died in the blast. Khurram lost his leg. That was when he became a full time advocate for peace and non-violence in Kashmir.
"I need that the issues of the Kashmiri people are heard by the international community, and this award really definitely has helped and will help in the future as well in bringing out the voice of the people of Kashmir who have suffered silently through the last so many decades, and this award has given voice to the suffering people of Kashmir."
Li Dan's journey began with the 1993 movie "Philadelphia." The film about discrimination against AIDS victims prompted Dan to visit a Chinese village stricken by HIV and AIDS.
What he found was a community unknown to its country, neglected by its government, and isolated by a deadly virus that was spreading throughout China, killing millions, and orphaning an entire generation of children.
Armed with a video camera and a purpose, Li Dan continues to shine light on the AIDS problem in his homeland. He assists families struggling with the disease. He has continued to work with children despite the government's closing of an orphanage he helped establish.
Reebok began the awards in 1988, after sponsoring Amnesty International's Human Rights Now World Concert Tour of 23 cities on four continents. Normally recipients receive their awards right away.
But there was one recipient this year whose award was long overdue. Tibetan nun Phuntsog Nyidron was honored in 1995 for leading a peaceful protest in Tibet celebrating the Dalai Lama's acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize.
It resulted in sixteen years of imprisonment and torture in a Chinese prison .
A year after her release, and eleven years after she was granted the award, Phuntsog finally received her recognition.
Each award winner received a 50-thousand-dollar grant from the Reebok Human Rights Foundation to help further their work, which most began with little or no money.