A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa
entitled to demobilisation packages. The child demobilisation process managed by UNICEF provides ex-child soldiers with a combination of monthly income and start- up grants for micro-projects, generally totalling around US $420 for each child. Start-up grants cover capital purchases (a plot of land, a cow, goat, sewing machine for example) enabling the recipient to set up a micro-business. While this package clearly facilitates their relatively smooth reinsertion into the community, the difficulty the children face is that neighbours who are not aware of these provisions believe their income derives from the ill-gotten gains of looting and other crimes carried out during the war. There are also family conflicts which arise when parents want to take control of their daughters’ demobilisation money.
Another, more serious, consequence is a psycho-social one: girl ex-soldiers, as well as others who have suffered violence, are subject to serious traumas. At the same time everyone around them is hostile to them, unable to hold out a supportive hand or help them regain their equilibrium. As a result of the exclusion they face, they lose self-respect and this leads inescapably to their self-isolation, keeping themselves to themselves and voluntarily limiting social contacts with others.
Some illustrations from the testimonies
‘Girls who didn’t get pregnant didn’t escape from sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS and others. I know a girl who suffers from AIDS, which she got after having been abducted by combatants.’
‘The problem for us girls is that if someone deceives you and you get pregnant, he will abandon you immediately. It’s not just that he won’t help you, but he will try to steal your child. Or else your parents will chase you away and you will have no- where to go, since the father of the child doesn’t acknowledge you.’
‘So I stopped studying then. It was in 1997 and I was in 9th year at school. My sister left me in a family and asked them to take care of me.’
2.7 How did the respondents deal with their problems?
The ways young girls affected by war and victims of violence adapt deserves particular attention. In fact, certain of their strategies can aggravate their problems, while others reduce them. The survival strategies developed by respondents faced with social rejection as described above include resignation, seeking refuge, delinquency, seeking employment, and seeking relationships with people who can offer them a home.
Loss of self-respect leads girls to resignation in the face of being called degrading