Divina Maloum is a young Cameroonian peace and social justice advocate. She is one of the winners of the fifteenth International Children’s Peace Prize in 2019 for her efforts in promoting peace by focus on Camerounian youth who are being forced to join Boko Haram, an armed group terrorizing citizens of Nigeria, Cameroon, and Tchad. “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 peacebuilders in their communities. To also make them be change makers,” said Ms. Maloum
In 2014, Maloum travelled to Northern Cameroon to visit her family. Her trip was a learning experience for her. She witnessed first-hand the impact of radicalization and the effects of violent extremism perpetrated against children and their families. During her visit, she discovered that children are the biggest target of terrorist attacks in that area. She noticed the recruitment and exploitation of children by Jihadist and violent extremist groups. Several children engaged in child labor and child suicide bomber as child soldiers. Those children were separated from their parents and they consequently dropped out of school. Especially, female students face a multi-dimensional challenge because they are exposed to human trafficking, abduction, commercial sexual exploitation, and much more. After she observed the deep-rooted problems, she initiated her movements to save the children who are the primary victims of Northern Cameroon’s civil unrest.
In 2015, Maloum founded Children for Peace, a grassroots level youth-led club that works in ten regions in Cameroon. On average, this club addresses more than five hundred children per year in mosques, schools, and open marketplaces. Through this inter-communal children’s peace movements, children become more aware of the terrible aftermath of joining a terrorist group.
The sad part is that the armed conflict in Cameroon is likely to keep on claiming more victims because of a lack of political will. The need for solidarity with the people of Cameroon has never been so great. More children will need help to be shielded from this violence.