Girl Soldier

Girl soldier. Image: HDPT CAR – Humanitarian and Development Partnership Team – Central African Republic

Julia*, 17, told the UNICEF team: “I was born in Rwanda, but I never knew my parents. When I was 16 years old a commander of the national army took me by force. When I got pregnant he threw me away. At a support center for refugees I was raped a second time. I am grateful to be here now with my baby. If possible I would like to start a small shop of my own.”

Several thousand girls have been recruited and used by armed forces and groups during and even after armed conflict. Girls are still being used in armed forces and groups in the eastern DRC. They are usually in combat, used as porters, provide medical assistance and perform domestic duties. Thousands are raped and used as “bush” wives; many had children as a result of rape.

Girl soldiers have been largely overlooked, particularly due to fear of stigmatization by their communities. Some stayed with their military “husband” for fear of violence if they left. Only 12% of formally demobilized children were girls, despite estimates that girls have comprised up to 40% of the total number of child soldiers during the armed conflict.

The situation for girls associated with armed groups is especially dire, Namegabe said, as they suffer from trauma, most of them having been raped and sometimes made pregnant.

“The situation that brought them into an armed group has not changed; it’s important that they have a clear project for their life in this context,” Namegabe said. “We want them to build dreams, realistically.”

Rohanne Rosine, CTO’s director for the protection of girls, said: “The poverty of families is a big problem. Before they take back their daughters they request food or money, because they have too many starving mouths at home.”

In April 2007 DRC Child Soldiers Coalition members identified 415 girls in the ranks of armed forces and groups in South Kivu. All the commanders denied the presence of girls in their ranks, alleging that they were dependents or “wives”. Local sources reported that many girls remained with the 115th brigade of the FARDC, Mai Mai groups and the FDLR in North Kivu. Military commanders and fighters frequently assumed possession of the girls, claimed them as “wives” and saw no obligation to identify or release them.[1]

Amnesty International

Amnesty International

Community-based initiatives were established from 2004 to respond to the needs of girls in some regions, but thousands of girls received no reintegration support. Despite well-documented evidence of widespread sexual violence against girls, their complex medical and psychosocial needs remained largely unmet. Programs to assist girl mothers and their children remained virtually non-existent. Existing provision was largely provided by NGOs working at the community level. Returning girls were rejected by their communities because of their involvement in sexual activity.

Former girl soldiers say they want their families and communities to understand it is not their fault they were forced into joining an armed group. They want medical help, support in bringing up babies, and access to education and jobs. Above all, they say, they do not want to be treated as outcasts.

AIMERANCE, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Abducted, raped and abused, Aimerance joined a guerrilla group after leaving home because her impoverished family could not support her.

We suffered a lot. I had lice in my hair. We had to do all the cooking for lots and lots of people who were there. It was a lot of work. The men took us as their ‘wives’. They treated us very badly. There were lots of little houses in the military camp. They put girls and the men in those houses. They didn’t even consider that we were children. At any time they wanted, they came and had sex with us. I felt like I had no energy left within me. I felt so weak and feeble and as if I had lost all my intelligence. There were seven of us girls who were treated the same way. Now I feel bad here.” She pointed to her stomach.

Aimerance eventually escaped and found her way to her home village. The rebels came looking for her twice, but she managed to evade them. [2]

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[1] Amnesty International (AI), DRC, Children at War: Creating Hope for their Future, October 2006.

[2] Girl Soldiers: The Forgotten Victims of War http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0425-02.htm

 

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