Abraham Keita has been awarded the International Children's Peace Prize, a prestigious award previously given to Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai. The 17-year-old was presented with the award for demanding justice for child victims of violence and for successfully campaigning for the Liberian parliament to adopt the children's law.
In a ceremony in The Hague, Abraham received the prize from Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian who in 2011 won the Nobel Peace Prize for her non-violent struggle for the safety of women during the country's peace-building process.
"Together with my peers I have successfully lobbied for children's rights laws, but the now need to be put into practice," Keita said on receiving the award. "Children worldwide are still exposed to violence and injustice while thugs often so unpunished. I want people across the globe to acknowledge that this is unacceptable and that every world citizen, whether young or old, can be an agent of change."
Since 2008, Keita has played a prominent role in the Liberian Children's Parliament, organising peaceful demonstrations and petitions, and lobbying successfully for children's participation to be funded directly from the national budget. He also pushes for free quality primary and secondary education for all children.
Speaking to IBTimes UK in an interview, Keita said he wanted to ensure that Liberia becomes a country where the rights of children are respected and promoted.
Keita has also pushed the Liberian government to pass national legislation on children's rights. In 2012, Liberia became one of the first African countries to adopt comprehensive laws for children, the Children's Law, incorporating both the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the African Charter. Keita was nominated by Desmond Tutu, a patron of charity KidsRights and the prize.
Awarded for the 11th consecutive year, the International Children's Peace Prize is an initiative of KidsRights. Ten inspiring children who already have received the prize include Nkosi Johnson, who fought for the rights of children with Aids, and Yousafzai, who won the International Children's Peace Prize in 2013 before going on to win the Nobel Peace Prize a year later.
Yousafzai is one of many to congratulate the 17-year-old on his award, saying: "We are happy to welcome Abraham to the Youngsters. Together we will continue the fight to improve children's rights and advocate for an immediate end to violence against children."
Since its inception, the Children's Peace Prize has grown to become the international recognition for children standing up for their rights and has inspired over one billion people worldwide.