A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa
me when my new pregnancy became visible. He consoled me, saying that I could not have done otherwise.’
‘When this child was born, my brother came from Kayanza to chase me away from the family home. It was the local administrators who supported me to be taken back in by my family. The same brother came back to chase me away again, this time for good. My family, especially my brothers, rejected me because they see me as encroaching on the family land. And no-one around me cares one jot.’
2.5 How did the community respond?
The behaviour and reactions of the community vary according to whether the young girl in difficulty was in contact with armed movements as a combatant, was abducted, or was just a child mother. For all these categories of girls, stigma and discrimination by those around them are very pronounced, for different reasons. In the case of girls who were abducted by combatants or who have been demobilised, the community harbours suspicions that they have acquired bad behaviour in the armed movements. Several testimonies describe how people accuse them of being violent, killers, thieves, people who carry the HIV virus, and so on. Rose, for example, describes the long and intense efforts she made to persuade those around her that she intended them no harm.
Although the community in general discriminates against these girls, it reacts positively in certain situations. In the case of girls who participated in armed movements and who were officially demobilised, such as Rose, administrators often try to help them reintegrate. But for other child mothers, in addition to the bad treatment they get within their own families, those around them do nothing but condemn and exclude them. These attitudes are hard to shake because people believe this is the way that things have always been. And that is also why those who have the power to change the situation (for example parents, administrators,
neighbours, lawyers) stigmatisation.
remain passive in the face of this discrimination and
Some illustrations from the testimonies
‘People considered me to be something less than a woman, for they said a girl who produced a child while unmarried was to be banished from society; no-one could give her water to drink, and even if her child got ill no-one could even lend her 100 francs to buy some pills. They would say ‘Go away, you slut!’ No-one could help you in this case.’