US teenagers who campaigned for safer schools win the International Children’s Peace Prize

March For Our Lives Wins International Childrens Peace Prize 2018
Archbishop Desmond Tutu presents the award to the March For Our Lives founders

Safe Schools Declaration

The founders of March For Our Lives, who rallied popular support after a mass shooting at their high school, were honoured today in South Africa.

A group of teenagers who founded the March For Our Lives movement after a mass shooting at an American high school have won a global prize today.

They were named as the 2018 winners of the International Children’s Peace Prize, awarded annually to a child or group who fight courageously for children’s rights.

March For Our Lives was initiated by David Hogg, Emma González, Jaclyn Corin and Matt Deitsch – alongside more than 20 other American students -after 17 people were shot dead in February and others wounded at their school in Parkland, Florida. 

They organised the March For Our Lives event in the spring to demand safer schools and communities and to protest gun violence. 

They have lobbied, held town hall rallies and persuaded thousands of young people to register to vote. Since its launch, over 25 US states have passed more than 50 pieces of legislation consistent with the cause of March For Our Lives.

 “We accept this award on behalf of the millions of young people who are a critical part of this movement,” said Jaclyn Corin.

“We refuse to feel hopeless or defeated because we know how to prevent this epidemic from continuing to plague our communities. We will continue to fight so that gun violence can be a thing of the past.

“Our generation is forever committed to finding peace.”

Three finalists for the prize had been selected from 121 nominees from 45 countries.

The winner was announced on Universal Children’s Day at a ceremony in Cape Town, South Africa, which also celebrated the 15th anniversary of the KidsRights Foundation, which runs the awards.

“I am in awe of these children, whose powerful message is amplified by their youthful energy and an unshakable belief that children can, no must, improve their own futures,” said Archbishop Desmond Tutu, patron of the International Children’s Peace Prize and KidsRights. 

“They are true change-makers who have demonstrated most powerfully that children can move the world.”

The other finalists were:

Moni Begum, 17, from Bangladesh (theme - child marriage)

She became an activist against child marriage at the age of nine, after her own sister was forced to marry a much older man who physically and sexually abused her. 

She has rescued more than 200 girls from child marriage by confronting parents, informing teachers and involving the police where necessary. 

Moni has also established a support system within her own organisation which issues micro-loans to families to pay for their daughters’ education.

She said: “Influence the family, let her grow. If given the opportunity, she can become the whole world.”

Leilua Lino, 18, from Samoa (theme - child abuse)

Leilua was raped by her father when she was nine. He was sentenced to 29 years in prison and she now lives at the Samoa Victim Support Group shelter, where she has become an Ambassador for Peace. 

Her courage in court and her awareness-raising efforts in primary schools across Samoa – through which she has reached more than 3,000 children – have inspired many more children to report their abuse. 

She created peace gardens in her campus which have helped 200 children to recover from trauma and she speaks to them about her journey and the importance of finding inner peace.

Leilua said: “Why should I turn against the whole world because of what I have lost? I am now at peace, and I share the gift of peace with the abused children of Samoa, by being their voice.”

Last year’s winner was Mohamad Al Jounde from Syria, who was chosen for his tireless efforts to ensure the rights of Syrian refugee children. By winning the award he gained an international platform which enables him to spread his powerful message among an audience of hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

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