Everyone can make a difference in bringing peace to their societies, says Divina Maloum. 

A 15-year-old girl from Cameroon is one of two winners of the 2019 International Children’s Peace Prize, VOA reports. Divina Maloum was rewarded for her efforts in promoting children’s rights by visiting schools to warn students against joining armed groups, such as Boko Haram.

Hundreds of children from schools in Yaounde, glued to their TV screens, applauded on November 20th as Maloum was given the prize in the Hague on the occasion of Children’s Day.

The other winner of the prize was 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, the climate activist from Sweden, who was unable to attend the ceremony but said in a statement that she is “incredibly grateful and honoured for this prize”.

Maloum created Children for Peace in 2014 after she visited Cameroon’s northern border with Nigeria, where Boko Haram have killed more than 27,000 people and displaced 2m others.

She said she was horrified that children were the greatest victims of the war and started thinking of what she could do to help those who were joining the militant group, either by force or out of ignorance.

“I noticed that the rights of children, especially for girls, were violated. You see a girl of five years getting married to an old man of 60 years. You see boys, girls who are carriers of bombs (suicide bombers), so I decided to create that association to stimulate the civic and voluntary engagement of children in the fight against violent extremism. To make them be peace builders in their communities. To also make them to be change makers,” Maloum said.

Children for Peace now has a network of 100 children across Cameroon’s ten regions. Maloum has organised inter-community children’s peace camps, established peace clubs in mosques, and together with other children, issued a children’s declaration against violent extremism.

“Everyone can make a difference in bringing peace to their societies,” the teenager said after receiving the award.

douala childrenChildren in Douala, Cameroon. Source: CC 2019

The International Children’s Peace Prize is an annual award given to a child who fights courageously for children’s rights.

The winner receives the statuette ‘Nkosi’, which portrays a child setting the world in motion, as well as a study and care grant and a worldwide platform to promote his or her ideals and causes to the benefit of children’s rights.

Additionally, a project fund of €100,000 is invested by KidsRights Foundation in projects closely connected to the winners’ area of work in their country.

Maloum said her main concern now is for peace to return to the restive English-speaking regions of Cameroon, where most schools have been closed for three years due to fighting between armed separatists and the military.

UNICEF said on November 5th that three years of violence and instability in the North-West and South-West regions have left more than 855,000 children out of school.

In some areas where schools have been closed, community-run learning activities have been initiated to ensure that children do not miss out further on their education.

UNICEF is procuring books and other learning materials for 37,000 school-aged children. In addition, UNICEF will disseminate literacy and numeracy lessons by radio for children who remain at home.

political banner

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

Cameroon: Anglophone Dialogue
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 56, Issue 10

Cameroon: West on ‘Lockdown’
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 56, Issue 2

Nigeria: Children Used in Conflict
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 54, Issue 4

Subscribe to ARB today.