A special invitation that meant so much to me. It is my second year working with Maiti Nepal against human trafficking and violation of human rights of the child. It has been the best, most meaningful time of my life so to get an invitation to attend the World Children’s Prize ceremony lead by HRH Queen Silvia of Sweden was something extraordinary. The prize is often mentioned as the Children’s Nobel peace prize. The ceremony is held in the beautiful Gripsholms Castle in Mariefred, Sweden followed by a banquet dinner at the Gripsholms värdshus.
Maiti Nepal themselves, won the award in 2002 and has since then been part of the child jury each year. Many children around the world take part in this global vote, and the biggest year ever 7.1 million children voted. It is not only in western and calm countries where the votes take place. During the ceremony this year, we were informed that close to 300.000 children in the instabil country of Sierra Leone had still managed to get to their voting station to make themselves heard. That is something.
The child jury is flown in for the official ceremony and this year Neeta from Maiti Nepal was there together with children from Philippines, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Congo, Israel, Mozambique and Pakistan. In total 12 children from 12 different countries and all of them specialists in the field of the human rights of the child due to their own experiences. The evening took us on an emotional roller coaster with beautiful music and dance performances by children from gang ridden high crime suburbs in Cape Town along with footage from this year global voting around the world. We were also presented with some horrific first hand stories. Of course the biggest issue is the sexual exploitation of girls but I want to tell a story that affected me a lot. The story of Dieu-Merci from Congo. “One day on his way to school the school bus got stopped and gerilla soldiers came on board. They took all the little boys out in the forest and forced them to become soldiers. Dieu-Merci was 7 years old when this happened. He spent 4 years in the jungle as a boy soldier. He told us that he tried to escape once but was captured and after that, he never dared to try again. One night they got captured in a fight with military soldiers. “All gerilla was told to get down on our knees, and they started executing us one by one”, he says and continues: “When I was next, I suddenly screamed: I am not a soldier, I am a boy and I was kidnapped.”
The military heard Dieu-Merci and he was spared and rescued. Now 5 years later he is working to help other boys going through what happened to him. This story is only one of the captivating stories we were told first hand from the children at the gala at Gripsholms Castle in Mariefred, Sweden.
I learned a lot during this evening from both the children and the nominated. This year’s nominated heroes have all 3 done amazing work to help exposed children. What an achievement in life. I salute them! Gabriel Mejía Montoya, Rachel Lloyd and Valeriu Nicolae.
I will leave you to read about their amazing work yourselves on World Children’s Prize Foundation.