Child Soldiers – Some words don’t belong together: To all the confused over Invisible Children and Kony12, Support WAR CHILD.

So, yesterday we were all bombarded with the new campaign to stop Joseph Kony brutally abducting children and using them as soldiers to gain power for himself. The campaign is called Kony12 and you can see the video and all that jazz by clicking here.

HOWEVER, it wasn’t until I’d done a little research that I found out the other side of the story, about non transparency, methodology to stop Kony amongst other things. Again, click here to find out more.

This left me and many others confused. They’d saw the video, were touched and enraged by what they saw and wanted to do something about it. And they still do.

Yet, should we support a charity that claims they want to free these kids and bring Kony down, but uses a similarly corrupted army to do so? I would suggest not.

So. Without using the video, let me tell you a few things about Child Soldiers and Child Warfare…

Key facts and statistics about child soldiers…

  • There are an estimated 250,000 child soldiers in the world today.
  • It is estimated that 40% of all child soldiers are girls. They are often used as ‘wives’ (i.e. sex slaves) of the male combatants.
  • Many rebel groups use child soldiers to fight the government, but some governments also use child soldiers in armed conflict.
  • Not all children take part in active combat. Some are also used as porters, cooks and spies.
  • As part of their recruitment, children are sometimes forced to kill or maim a family member – thus breaking the bonds with their community and making it difficult for them to return home.

Where are child soldiers?

Africa has the largest number of child soldiers. Child soldiers are being used in armed conflict in Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Sudan

Why use children as soldiers?

Children are used as soldiers because they are easier to condition and brainwash. They don’t eat much food, don’t need paying much and have an underdeveloped sense of danger so are easier to send into the line of fire.

As children make up the majority demographic in many conflict-affected countries, there’s a constant supply of potential recruits. Due to their size and ‘expendability’, children are often sent into battle as scouts or decoys, or sent in the first wave to draw the enemy’s fire.

What are the effects on children?

The effects on children are felt long after their physical scars have healed and their drug dependencies overcome. Many child soldiers are desensitised to violence – often at a very formative time in their development and this can psychologically damage them for life.

Even when they’re set free or escape, many children can’t go back home to their families and communities because they’ve been ostracised from them. They may have been forced to kill a family member or neighbour just so they can never go back. Many girls have babies from their time in the rebel groups and their communities/families don’t accept them home.

Most have missed out on school – sometimes for many years. Without an education they have very little future prospects and sometimes return to the rebel groups as they have simply no other way of feeding themselves.

How do child soldiers get recruited?

  • Some are abducted from their homes and forced to become soldiers
    (a tactic notoriously used by the Lords Resistance Army.)
  • A village may be forced to provide a certain number of children as soldiers in exchange for staying safe from attack.
  • Some children are volunteered by their parents due to extreme poverty and hunger at home.
  • In some rare cases children volunteer to join the fight because of ideological reasons or to avenge the death of their family.

 

For a more detailed report on these facts, then you may visit here for a report on Child Soldiers.

So – how can we campaign against this horrible reality without using Kony12, seen as they’ve not been totally, 100% honest with us?

I would suggest the charity, War Child.

You may think… “War Child? Never heard of them!”

Which is why I’m highlighting them on my blog today. Here’s what War Child do to help fight against children being taken against their will to be soldiers:

What is War Child doing?

We’re helping to get children out of army uniforms and into school ones.

War Child has worked with former child soldiers in Africa for many years. In Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) we’re currently helping to reintegrate former child soldiers back into society and into education.

Many child soldiers go through formal Demobilisation, Disarmament and Reintegration (DDR) programmes when they are free from the armed groups. These programmes tend to focus on the needs of boys but aren’t always so sensitive to the specific needs of girls. As a result, girls are often a very vulnerable and marginalised group even among children who are already excluded and rejected by society.

That’s why we’re focusing our work on girls who have been used as soldiers or their ‘wives’ in northern Uganda and eastern Congo.

We’re providing vital education, counselling and health services for girls – and helping to tackle the huge stigma associated with being a girl soldier. Whilst boys are considered to be dangerous and violent, girls are often seen as ‘damaged goods’ by their community and family. This is especially true if they have suffered a sexual assault or have given birth to a baby.

Picking up a gun again is often the easiest way of regaining the respect of their community. We’re enroling them into school and helping to reunify them with their families if that’s deemed to be the best solution. Some of the children find it hard to sit still in a classroom after enduring years of violence and constant relocation in the bush, so we’re also providing vocational and skills for independent living where appropriate.

http://www.warchild.org.uk/issues/child-soldiers

And they’ve also been doing videos and things to try and raise awareness. But they’re a small charity (because they’re not making millions and keeping it all to themselves) so they haven’t had much air time. It’s time for that to change:

You can see more of their videos here.

Now my suggestion is that we support War Child. They’re clean, up front, honest, and you can read all about what they’re doing- rather than just blindly pledging allegiance to a charity that isn’t quite kosher.

How can you support War Child

1. Go to their website and find out about…

Them. – And see just how transparent and reliable they are.

Their Work with Child Soldiers. – And how they’re going about it through non-violent means.

How you can get involved. – And help fundraise, buy their music/books etc and other things.

 

I’m so glad that I’ve found War Child. If you’re convinced by them and would rather support a clean charity, why not visit their site now – raise awareness of them, and maybe donate a little money by texting…

Donate via text message in 30 seconds:

Text KIDS36 £2 to 70070 to donate £2.

Text KIDS36 £5 to 70070 to donate £5.

Text KIDS36 £10 to 70070 to donate £10.

Thanks Guys. Raise awareness by sharing this post. Something needs to be done – but it needs to be done in an ethical way…

 

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Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about