It is estimated that around 300,000 children are being used in conflicts worldwide. Child soldiers are forcibly recruited or manipulated into joining the armed groups, or join without an understanding of the exploitation they will be subject to. The term child soldier does not only refer to children used in direct combat, but also those who are used as cooks, messengers, spies or for sexual purposes. Girls are often sexually abused as ‘wives’ for the rebel commanders and are exposed to sexually transmitted diseases and giving birth at a young age. The children are threatened with violence should they attempt to escape and some children are forced to kill family members.
Reintegration is a complex, lengthy, and resource heavy process. The young people are often stigmatised by their communities and families, especially child mothers and their children to rebel commanders. Young people who have missed the vital childhood years of education, familial nurture, and social development are at risk of struggling to re-enter society as accepted and contributing members. Not only is psychological healing necessary but some young people also have physical injuries or sexually transmitted diseases that make certain work impossible.
What is Being Done
International law and aid organisations are striving to protect children from recruitment and aiding in the demobilisation and reintegration processes. At Project Phoenix we strive to support the reintegration process by providing theatre and dream building workshops to empower the young people and bring communities and former child soldiers together.
For more details on the situation and work being done to make children’s rights a priority please see the links below.
The organisation in Lira, Uganda where Project Phoenix will travel in early 2015 is founded by the phenomenal Jane Ekayu, an international spokesperson on the issues of child soldiers and war trauma recovery.
Filmed in the former war-zone of northern Uganda over a period of three years, Children of War is a unique and incandescent film which follows a group of former child soldiers as they escape the battlefield, enter the sanctuary of a rehabilitation center, and undergo an experience of recovery and renewal. http://www.childrenofwarfilm.com
Uganda - Former Child Soldiers Struggle to Overcome the Horrors of War
Principles and guidelines on children associated with armed forces or armed groups.