A Kids Rigts Initiative

In 2016, Kehkashan won the International Children’s Peace Prize. The two other nominees have all made an impressive difference in their environment, at a very young age, each in their own way:

 

Divina Maloum (12) - Cameroon

Nominated for her fight for peace and against redicalization

Divina Maloum 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. 

“I am standing up for peace”

 

Muzoon Almellehan (18) - Syria

Nominated for her fight for the right to education of child refugees

Muzoon Almellehan 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. 

“If Syrian children are not educated, who will rebuild our country? We need an education because Syria needs us. Syria needs engineers, teachers, doctors, and journalists. Without us, who will bring peace?”