October 27, 2017

Meet some inspiring young people who are fighting for children's rights

The International Children's Peace Prize has a record number of nominations this year - we look at a few of their remarkable stories.

Across the world, there are amazing children and young people who do inspiring things to help others.

The International Children’s Peace Prize is awarded annually to a child who fights courageously to promote the rights of other children. This year a record 169 nominations were received from 55 countries.

Many of them are campaigning against practices that affect children's right to education - including bullying, conflicts, discrimination, child labour and early marriage.

KidsRights Foundation has run the prize for 13 years and will announce the 2017 winner on December 4 in the Hague, Netherlands.

KidsRight founder Marc Dullaert: “It is very encouraging that so many children across the globe dare to stand up for the rights of other children and bring about change in their own communities, cities or countries. Children can be true change-makers and set the world in motion.”

Here's a look at just a few of the remarkable young people who have been nominated this year. You can see the full list here.

Nominated: Jada and Poonam

Photo credit: KidsRights Foundation

Bullying

Jada, 17, from the Bahamas

The junior high school student was bullied as a child due to her bad teeth. This, along with the experiences of her friends and family led her to take a stand against bullying. 

Jada rallied students to join her in an anti-bullying club at her school. She developed Bully Boxes to provide an anonymous way for students to express their concerns about bullying and to provide clear data on bullying in the Bahamas.

Jada says: "Don't treat others harsh and disrespectful, knowing you wouldn't like to be treated the same."

Child labour

Poonam, 16, from India

She lives in a slum in the city of Agra, where many street children are forced into child labor and denied an education. Poonam worked from the age of five and, because she was a girl, also had to do the housework. 

She is now an advocate for children's rights, fighting to eradicate child labour. She is the district secretary of a federation of street and working children, reporting and intervening in many cases of children's rights violations, including child abuse, child marriage, right to education and child trafficking.

Poonam says: “Please take care of your children. Give them what they deserve.”

Nominated: Taharima and Ahmed

Photo credit: KidsRights Foundation

Child marriage

Taharima, 16, from Bangladesh

She graduates from high school this year. Taharima is an active member and president of the local National Children Task Force and Youth Forum. 

She was able to prevent her forced marriage by making it clear to relatives and villagers that she wanted to complete her education and not marry young. She sought support from organisations to stop her marriage - in doing so she became a strong role model for other children in her community.

Taharima says: “I want to see a child-friendly environment everywhere.”

Children in armed conflict

Ahmed, 17, from Yemen

Despite a tough childhood living in poverty with 10 siblings, he has become leader of his student union and has represented the children's government at UNICEF. 

Ahmed fought a successful three-year battle for new children's rights laws to be included in the Federal Constitution of Yemen. He continues to battle against early marriage and the recruitment of children in armed conflict, and wants to establish a global campaign for children's rights.

Ahmed says: “Every child deserves a happy, safe life. Together we can offer them what they need.”

Nominated: Joshua and Ailyn

Photo credit: KidsRights Foundation

Disabilities

Joshua, 14, from Uganda

He was born with psychosocial and speech challenges and was discriminated against within his family and in the community. He failed all his primary school exams and in February this year was moved to a new school to learn reading, writing and counting.

With private lessons from a special needs teacher, Joshua learned fast and opened the eyes of all around him to the potential that they had failed to pick up on. He is now learning alongside non-disabled children, and has sensitised many in the community to the potential of children like him.

Joshua says: “There is a need to create an enabling environment through which children with disabilities are motivated to participate and to bring out their potential within them.”

Discrimination

Ailyn, 17, from Costa Rica 

She grew up in a vulnerable community with her mother and six sisters and now lives in one of the poorest areas near the city of Heredia. She is a mediator and team member of the Civic Peace Center and coaches a girls' soccer team. 

Ailyn made a video for International Women's Day about the importance of gender equality. She demonstrates leadership within her community and campaigns together with other mediators for a better life for immigrants, young girls and women.

Ailyn says: “The fight for our rights goes on day by day.”

Nominated: Eva and Fathima

Photo credit: KidsRights Foundation

Education

Eva, 17, from Tanzania

Her parents are farmers in Iringa Rural and she has to help them with domestic chores. Until recently, she was often forced to miss school because the nearest source of clean water was a four-mile walk away.

Frustrated, she wrote a celebrated letter to US President Barack Obama about barriers to education, which he read out to the UN Sustainable Development Summit. With help, Eva collected 150,000 petition signatures which led to the government promising clean water and safe toilets at schools.

Eva says: “We should believe in ourselves. If we raise our voices, they will be heard. I am just one girl but my voice matters.”

Gender equality

Fathima, 17, from Sri Lanka

She fights for children's rights and girls' rights in particular, conducting awareness programmes and offering free classes to poor children at her home. 

Inspired by Fathima, more girls at her school now stay on for higher studies. She wants to be a social activist fighting for the rights and empowerment of women.

Fathima says: “Stop child abuse, child labour, corruption and sexual harassment against women.”

Nominated: Hilary and Dima

Photo credit: KidsRights Foundation

Peace

Hilary, 12, from Ghana

He lives in a deprived community in the Volta region. His parents weren't able to support him financially and the Open Dove Children's Foundation stepped in to help. Inter-ethnic conflicts and violence are a problem in Hilary's community, so he started peace marches with other schoolchildren. 

Impressed, the authorities invited him to organise marches in other communities and he has now led a total of 30 local, regional and national marches with more than 15,000 children have taken part. He wants to establish peace clubs in schools across the country.

Hilary says: “We must cherish and protect peace for the sake of children, because we are not just the future leaders but the present leaders in preparation.”

Refugees

Dima, 13, from Iraq

She and her family were forced to flee the violence in their home town of Duhok and travelled through Turkey to Greece. They have been living in refugee camps on Lesbos for the past 11 months. 

Dima was in a government-led camp at first but now lives in Kara Tepe. She is a football coach and has empowered girls from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Kurdistan to join the team. She also acts as a translator in the camp.

Dima says: “Everybody should have the right to a safe space of growth and empowerment.”

For inspiring stories of campaigning and change from Theirworld's own Global Youth Ambassadors, visit our Voices channel.

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