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This book is a product of a research project called ‘voices of youth’ carried out - page 46 / 125





46 / 125

A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa

impact on many young girls has been disastrous. Often coping with the loss of, or rejection by, their parents, they have been obliged to survive on their own, using whatever strategies they can - leaving school early, entering into early or undesired marriages, and seeking a precarious living in towns and camps. Young girls have been particularly vulnerable to forced enlistment in armed militias, where they

have, at best, been at worst to months other combatants.

subjected to gruelling training and life-threatening risk, and and years of servitude as spies, porters, and forced ‘wives’ of The girls who were not members of armed groups have had

to face a heightened level of violence in society at large, and a than normal of sexual violence, not only from soldiers but from

much greater risk the community at


As if rubbing salt into their wounds, girls face not only these risks but the near certainty, if they happen, of being met with indifference or rejection from those who should be protecting them, their family, neighbours and the state. Although some isolated incidents of exemplary support and empathy were noted by respondents, the general picture is one of rejection and struggle, engendered, it seems, by an ideology which entirely fails to value girls or to recognise their vulnerability to being violated and manipulated by others. In effect, the victims of violence are being blamed for the crimes that have been visited on them, instead of the perpetrators of the crimes being brought to account. Faced with so many disasters in their lives

  • violence, rejection, unwanted pregnancy, poverty, loss of hope and self-esteem

  • respondents demonstrate extraordinary resilience, compassion and humanity, and

respond with energy when offered opportunities to deal with their problems.

But the impact of violence against girls does not end with the girls themselves. Families have been broken apart by the consequences of violence against girls, and in particular by the consequences of their pregnancies - the shame of children born out of wedlock, conflicts over inheritance, the continuing economic burden of children without a father. Communities are seeing their values and their tolerance being tested to the limit, struggling to know how best to respond to the pressures of this new situation. Prostitution, family breakdown, street children, sexually transmitted illnesses are all rapidly increasing, alongside incidences of psycho-social trauma, early marriages, preventable diseases among mothers and children, and a generation of girls and their children unable to attend school.

3 Selected testimonies


Marie was born in 1985 in Kayanza Province, Muruta Commune. She is the third of five children. Her father and mother died in 1997 and 2001 respectively, when she

  • 

    All respondents’ names have been changed


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