A 15-year-old girl from Cameroon is one of two winners of the 2019 International Children’s Peace Prize. Divina Maloum was rewarded for her efforts in promoting children’s rights by visiting school to warn students against joining armed groups, such as Boko Haram.
Maloum 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 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 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. 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.
Language barriers are an issue when it comes to spreading a national message of peace. Cameroon is home to a diverse mix of cultures, languages and dialects. Divina therefore has created cartoons explaining the horrors of violent extremism.
Divina consulted children who had experienced violence personally, and with her team, she incorporated their stories into cartoons for everyone to understand. So far, Divina has distributed more than 3,000 cartoons.
She also uses the cartoons as the basis for meaningful conversations about peace. As well as spreading awareness within her own school and Koranic schools in the capital, she also visits street children, children orphaned by conflict, and underprivileged children from rural areas in the north.
Maloum said she believed 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.
She pointed out 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 country’s military.