A Filipino woman who helped strike a peace deal with Muslim rebels and a Bangladeshi man who offered poor children free English-language education were among the winners Thursday of Asia’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize.
Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, 63, was one of four recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Award — named after a Philippine president killed in a plane crash — for her efforts in “harnessing the power of women” in peace advocacy.
After campaigning against martial law imposed by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. in the 1970s, Coronel-Ferrer pursued a career in conflict resolution in the Philippines and abroad.
Among her key achievements was serving as chief government negotiator in talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to end their decades-long insurgency in the southern Philippines, which resulted in a historic peace accord in 2014.
“Conflicts are best resolved not through the annihilation of one party, but by the mutual transformation of all players towards a common vision and shared responsibilities and accountability,” Coronel-Ferrer said in a statement.
Fellow award recipient Korvi Rakshand, 38, gave up a potentially lucrative career in business or law after a life-changing encounter with youngsters scavenging in a dump in Bangladesh.
He convinced six friends to teach English to disadvantaged children so they could get jobs.
That project expanded into English-language primary and secondary education in 11 traditional and online schools.
Another winner was Indian oncologist Ravi Kannan R., 59, who champions equitable access to health services by providing free or subsidized cancer treatments to poor patients in the northeastern state of Assam.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation commended his “devotion to his profession’s highest ideals of public service”.
Eugenio Lemos, 51, also received the award for his work in water and natural resource management in Timor-Leste that has helped swathes of the country.