On Monday, Economic Faculty association Rotterdam (EFR) celebrated its 50th anniversary by hosting the International Children’s Peace Prize (ICPP) debate. This illustrious event was hosted by Jan Peter Balkenende, former Dutch Prime Minister and Erasmus University Professor. However, most attendants came with just one goal:  catch a glimpse of Desmond Tutu.

Balkenende mediated the debates by allowing the former ICPP winners to answer questions and share their missions and goals. Each respondent gave heartfelt accounts of their experiences and their hope for change. Thandiwe Chama, 2007 ICPP winner, spoke passionately about her challenges of fighting for the basic right of education children: “When you educate a child, you do not just educate that child, you educate the world and when you educate the world, you make the life of every child better.” Francis Simon, who received her prize in 2010 for fighting for the rights of children to receive their nationality and birth registration, said: “Without a birth certificate, these children don’t exist and have no rights to basic necessities like schooling, healthcare or even get marriage.” This pressing issue is so dear to her heart, that by the time she was 16, she had already helped 130 children to register officially.   

A better World

When the floor was opened to the audience to question the panel, one student asked Desmond Tutu: “How can young people today believe in change and not grow up to be cynical?” Tutu responded: “One of the best things about young people is that they are so idealistic but often they grow up and become infected with the older generations’ ideology and grow cynical of change. Life makes you sad. But please, don’t be infected by us, go on dreaming and believing in a better world. We want a new kind of world and the young people have to keep hold of that.”

Inspire students

The ICPP debate was organised by the EFR with the hope that it would “inspire students to make a change”. The International Children’s Peace Prize was first established by a Dutch charity, Kids Rights, in order to provide a platform for young motivated activists to help further their cause. The event was attended by esteemed guests and ICPP winners (2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012) Om Prakash Gurjar, Thandiwe Chama, Baruani Ndume, Francia Simon, Chaeli Mycroft and Kesz Valdez. Whilst the debate was really more of a Q and A, there was no dry eye in the house after the harrowing accounts of these inspiring young activists’ lives. DB