Cameroonian Divina Maloum, 15, created Children for Peace in 2014 after she visited Cameroon’s northern border with Nigeria, where Boko Haram terrorism has killed more than 27,000 people and displaced two million others.
She is one of two winners of the 2019 International Children’s Peace Prize. The other winner is Sweden’s Great Thunberg; the 16-year-old climate activist who was also in the running for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize which was eventually scooped up by Ethiopia’s now-embattled Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed.
Oddly, Abiy won the Nobel Peace Prize for ending Ethiopia’s long-standing territory dispute with neighbouring Eritrea but Ethiopia seems to have descended into chaos as a result of tribal unrest since Abiy won that award.
In any case, the Cameroonian teen, 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 Wednesday as Maloum was given the International Children’s Peace Prize for 2019 at the Hague on the occasion of Universal Children’s Day.
Thunberg, the other recipient of the award, though unable to attend the ceremony, said in a statement that she is “incredibly grateful and honored for this prize.”
Maloum, who founded Children for Peace, 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 Boko Haram, 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 peacebuilders in their communities. To also make them be change-makers,” Maloum said.
Since its inception in 2014, Children for Peace now has a network of 100 children across Cameroon’s ten regions. She has organized inter-community children’s peace camps, established peace clubs in mosques, and together with other children, issued a children’s declaration against violent extremism.
Maloum said she believes everyone can make a difference in bringing peace to their societies.
‘My message to the world is that when the power of love will be greater than the love of power, man shall have another name which is God and that a youth, where you are as an individual, you can change the world and make a difference where you are going to,” she said.
These days, Maloum is concerned about restoring peace to the restive regions of Anglophone Cameroon, where most schools have been closed for three years due to clashes between the country’s military and armed separatists.
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