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This book is a product of a research project called ‘voices of youth’ carried out - page 43 / 125

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32

A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa

names and hearing incessant insults. Taking refuge in religion allows some young girls to find hope and joie de vivre. Others give themselves over to delinquency, notably in the form of prostitution and alcoholism, which in turn exposes them to other forms of violence, and their lives thus become a cycle of violence and victimisation. Some, as a solution to their situation, go and look for work in towns or far from their homes, or seek petty employment opportunities.

One possible solution is to look for older people who can offer security - at least economically. This might be a relative or neighbour who is tolerant of the girl’s situation and understands her problems, possibly an older woman who herself needs support. But some find refuge in the first person who seeks them out in marriage, for they have little room for manoeuvre in terms of choice of marriage

partner.

Some illustrations from the testimonies

‘I brought these two children up by myself, with no-one to help me. I was full of sorrow and I thought I was going to go mad. So I went and prayed and was

reconverted, and God is helping me now in the displaced people’s camp.’

. I see better, but I still have lots of problems

‘So I continued looking for something to eat left and right, doing petty commerce like most of the people here in Bujumbura who are unemployed, to survive with

my children.’

‘Now, I live with another woman who said she would provide for me. My mother explained to me that the woman’s husband doesn’t love her - he is an animal - and as a result she advised me that in future I should look to this woman as a surrogate mother.’

2.8 What is the fate of the respondents’ children?

The girls are very young to be having children, and they lack both the skills and the resources to bring them up. The majority of the children are not acknowledged by their fathers, which will later on pose an identity problem because they are not even legally registered. Some of the fathers dare not acknowledge their children officially because they are already married, or else they are single but do not want to be forced into marriage with girls they have made pregnant.

The mothers’ families reject these children, and so does the community around them. The stigma and discrimination faced by their mothers goes no way towards letting them off, and people attach all sorts of prejudices and degrading names

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