Divina Maloum (15) built a grass-roots, youth-led movement of around 100 permanent members in 10 regions of Cameroon, called Children for Peace. Together, they teach over 5000 children a year that they have a choice: that they can say no to violence and build a lasting peace.
Standing up for peace In 2014, Divina visited family in the north of Cameroon, where she witnessed first-hand the impact of radicalization and violent extremism on children. They are separated from their families and face exploitation, abuse and recruitment as child soldiers. Divina learned of child brides and child suicide bombers. Determined not to abandon them, she went back home and started the “I am standing up for peace” campaign, spreading the story of the north.
In 2015, Divina went on to create the movement, Children for Peace (C4P), to promote child participation in peace building and sustainable development. Divina believes that children are the true carriers of peace and that peer education is the best way to reach them.
A country in conflictCameroon is in the grip of multiple conflicts. Terrorist attacks on the north-west border have intensified since May 2014, and increasing numbers of refugees come from the Central African crisis in the west. Separatist rebels recently launched a battle for their own state. In some parts of Cameroon, children experience violent extremism on a daily basis. As victims of terrorist attacks, they lose their lives, become injured or traumatized and are forced to flee their homes. Children see their villages burned to the ground and families torn apart. Going to school is no longer an option. Terrorist groups target vulnerable children and recruit them to become child soldiers and child brides.
Cartoons against radicalizationLanguage 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.
The communities others might forget Divina 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.
What the future holdsDivina continues to march on the capital to spread the message of peace, and to talk to her peers about the true meaning of peace building. Divina understands the power of children. She teaches children to speak up, quite literally, and to believe that their voice should be heard.