Children’s rights organisation KidsRights has announced the three finalists for the International Children’s Peace Prize 2016.
The prize is awarded annually to a child who fights courageously for children’s rights. Every year, the message of the new young winner has enormous impact and demonstrates to millions of people globally that change is possible. The International Children’s Peace Prize was founded by Marc Dullaert, founder and chair of the KidsRights Foundation. Nobel Peace Laureate Muhammad Yunus will present the prize to the winner in the Hall of Knights (Ridderzaal) in The Hague, international city of peace and justice, on Friday 2nd December.
The finalists are: Divina Maloum, 12 years old, Cameroon – nominated for her fight against extremist violence in her country; Kehkashan Basu, 16 years old, United Arab Emirates – nominated for her environmental campaigns to protect the environment and Muzoon Almellehan, 18 years old, Syria – nominated for her work promoting girls’ education in refugee camps.
Divina Maloum’s Story
Divina is a 12-year-old girl who lives in Cameroon. After learning about extremist violence and its impact on children, she started a program called ‘I am standing up for peace’. Thousands of children have disappeared in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. They have been separated from their families and are facing exploitation, abuse and recruitment by armed groups as child soldiers. Attacks and suicide bombings in communities are killing children, destroying schools and are sowing fear.
Through the program ‘I am standing up for peace’, Divina stimulates the civic and voluntary engagement of children in the fight against violent extremism. She interviewed 50 children about the dangers of violent extremism and she organized group discussions with children and young people on beliefs and extremist attitudes. Based on her engagement with these children Divina developed the program and it now operates in all ten regions of the country and has reached nearly 5.000 children through awareness raising campaigns and workshops in kindergartens, elementary and high schools. Her goal is to keep the peace in Cameroon and to raise awareness of the dangers of violent extremism and radicalization. In the future, Divina wants to extend the program beyond Cameroon, helping children to become resilient to extremist speech. She wants to be an inspiration in the fight against violent extremism.
Muzoon Almellehan’s Story
Muzoon is an 18-year-old girl who comes from Syria. Three years ago, Muzoon and her family were forced to flee their country and they found shelter in a refugee camp in Jordan. The war has put almost half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. 4.8 million Syrians have fled their country, and another 6.5 million are displaced within Syria; half of all Syrian refugees are children. Refugee children are extremely vulnerable; malnutrition and diseases brought on by poor sanitation, are threatening the health of children. Occurrences of early marriage and child labor have risen dramatically among Syrian refugee children, and the longer children are out of school, the lower the likelihood they will return and get an education. This, together with the lack of educational opportunities, has left almost 3 million Syrian children out of school.
Muzoon is aware of the importance of education and therefore she embarked on a campaign to ensure that every Syrian refugee girl had access to a good education. She convinced countless parents to send their children to school, rather than marry them off at an early age. Early marriage is a particular problem in refugee camps, where parents see it as the only way to protect their daughters. Muzoon went from tent to tent in the refugee camp and talked to children and their parents. She persuaded many children to go and to stay in school. Her campaign garnered global media coverage and high praise from refugees, international decision makers and journalists. This gave her a platform to meet world leaders, convincing them to do more and spend more to ensure a proper education for Syrian refugee children. Muzoon and her family moved to the United Kingdom in the summer of 2016, where she continues her advocacy for Syrian girls’ education.
Kehkashan Basu’s Story
Kehkashan, a girl of 16 years, was born and raised in the United Arab Emirates. She fights to safeguard the future of our planet. Environmental degradation is a real threat to children and their rights. All over the world children are suffering from the harmful effects of man-made environmental disasters, such as toxics and pollution, and climate change. Yearly more than 3 million children under the age of five die from environment-related causes and conditions. The consequences of climate changes, like floods, droughts and hurricanes, destroy infrastructures, food, water supplies and houses and make it sometimes necessary for families to flee from their homes. Heavy rainfalls and temperature changes have an impact on water and sanitation and therefore they can increase water-borne diseases. Young children are the first to get sick and every day, 6.000 children die of waterborne and sanitation-related illnesses, including diarrhea and malaria. A healthy environment is a precondition for the enjoyment of other children’s rights.
Kehkashan became an environmental activist at the age of eight, raising awareness in her neighborhood about the need to recycle waste. In 2012, she founded her own organization, Green Hope, which runs all kinds of activities witch children such as recycling, cleanups on beaches, tree planting and awareness campaigns. She has reached over 3,000 school and university students with awareness-raising workshops and conferences about the environment and sustainability. Green Hope also does relief work, both nationally and internationally, for people in poverty or despair. Green hope is active in ten countries and has over 1,000 members worldwide. Kehkashan has also spoken at numerous national and international conferences, such as the Rio+20 Earth Summit in Brazil and the COP 20 UN Climate Change Summit in Peru, on the vital future of our planet. She has written a children’s book called “The Tree of Hope” to even educate the smallest children on the protection of our planet.