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Liberian teenager Abraham Keita awarded International Peace Prize

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A Liberian teenager was awarded the prestigious International Children’s Peace Prize for his “tireless campaigning” to end violence against minors. Seventeen-year-old Abraham Keita was handed the award by his countrywoman Leymah Gbowee, who in 2011 was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

Liberian Peace Nobel Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, presents Abraham Keita the International Children’s Peace Prize 2015, for his efforts to improve children’s rights in his country, in The Hague. “Keita’s tireless work as a campaigner, bringing attention to crimes against children and campaigning until the perpetrators are locked away, stood out and convinced the jury,” the competition organisers KidsRights said.

In Liberia children are victims of civil war, of poverty, corruption and violence.Liberia is still struggling to get back on its feet after 14 years of civil war, which ended in 2003 leaving some 250,000 people dead.

Gbowee, who attended the ceremony in The Hague, said Keita’s work was “inspiring”, adding that “I recognise in him a true changemaker: fighting to end the extreme violence against children.” The teenager has lobbied the Liberian parliament to adopt laws to protect children, and led marches and demonstrations to highlight the issue. Some 80 percent of the population lives below the poverty level in Liberia which was also hit this year by the deadly outbreak of Ebola in west Africa.

In a country where 60 percent of the population is under the age of 25, almost 4,500 children lost one or both parents in the outbreak in which some 5,000 people died. According to a report by the University of Leiden, in the west of the Netherlands, almost half of Liberia’s children have experienced some kind of physical violence and 13 percent of girls have been sexually abused.

The International Children’s Peace Prize has been awarded annually since 2005 to a child who “fights courageously for children’s rights.” The foundation also invests some 100,000 euros ($108,000) in projects in the winner’s country.