Parkland school shooting survivors and founders of March For Our Lives have been awarded the International Children’s Peace Prize.
After a gunman shot and killed 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last February, a group of survivors—part of a generation of kids who spent their childhoods doing active shooter drills in their classrooms—decided enough was enough. They took advantage of the microphones being thrust in their faces and used their voices to start a movement that has taken off like no other gun legislation campaign ever has.
These students are now being recognized on the world stage for their ongoing work to end gun violence. On November 20, anti-apartheid activist and renowned cleric Archbishop Desmond Tutu presented the Parkland teens’ organization, March For Our Lives, with the International Children’s Peace Prize in Cape Town, South Africa. The prize from the KidsRights Foundation is “awarded annually to a child who fights courageously for children’s rights. All winners have shown a remarkable commitment to combating problems millions of children face worldwide.”
Desmond Tutu called the students “true change-makers.”
“The peaceful campaign to demand safe schools and communities, and the eradication of gun violence, is reminiscent of other great peace movements in history,” Tutu said. “I am in awe of these children, whose powerful message is amplified by their youthful energy and an unshakable belief that children can—no, must—improve their own futures.”
It’s an inspiring yet sad commentary, as theoretically adults should be the ones improving the future for children. However, since American grown-ups have spent decades proving they won’t take meaningful legislative action to curb gun violence, kids have been left with no choice but to take it on themselves. And take it on they have.
March For Our Lives released a statement that reflects the students’ commitment and laser sharp focus on the issue: “We are truly humbled and grateful for this award, but know that our work will not stop until we end the appalling and preventable epidemic of gun violence in the United States.”
Emma Gonzáles, David Hogg, Jaclyn Corin, and brothers Matt and Ryan Deitsch, who have helped serve as the public faces of March For Our Lives, received the award in Cape Town. More than 100 children from around the world were nominated for the prize, previous recipients of which include Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani youth who refused to stop speaking out for education even after being shot in the face.
The Parkland activists haven’t slowed down since the shooting.
The Parkland students organized March for Our Lives, a demonstration that drew hundreds of thousands of people to Washington, D.C. on March 24, 2018, and spurred hundreds of sister events around the world. MFOL has since evolved into an advocacy organization that pushes for lawmakers to stand up to the gun lobby, fund gun violence research, eliminate restrictions on the ATF, and pass various common sense gun legislation.
This summer, the students organized the Road to Change campaign, visiting communities in more than 20 states to help register young voters and spread the message that it's time to take action—legislatively and culturally—to end America's gun violence problem. They also pushed for youth turnout for the 2018 midterms with their #TurnoutTuesday series.
The Parkland survivors are on a serious mission to save lives, and they're clearly not going to stop until that missions is accomplished.