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A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa

and can expect respect from their communities. The MDP assists them with income- generating activities, organises counselling and peer support, provides training in literacy, leadership, HIV/AIDS and reproductive health, carries out research on and documents the girls’ experiences, and undertakes public advocacy work. It helps girls organise in groups, in order to provide each other with mutual support and to carry out income-generating projects and provides for the groups to be animated by ‘matrons’, older women from the community whose role in the project is to

provide child mothers with supportive advice.

The girl mothers supported by the project are taking care of their children single- handedly, despite their lack of means for survival. Most are young and unprepared for childcare, have little knowledge of reproductive health issues, and suffer from depression. Their children, especially those of formerly abducted mothers, have no identity and are usually treated abusively by other people. Looking at the current struggle the young mothers are making to feed their children, pay school fees, find rent money, etc, it is clear that roles of women and men in the war ravaged north are changing, with the women taking over most of the roles which were in the past

predominantly male.21

The study is based on interviews with 29 young mothers, as well as a number of key adults – mothers of the child mothers, elderly women (to help assess changing attitudes) police officers, the chief magistrate, and the heads of five NGOs. Two group discussions were held with elders. Interviews focused on the sexual and gender-based violence experienced by the young mothers, and the challenges they faced, their coping strategies, their relationships, and the roles of other stakeholders, as well as the potential role of child mothers in the peace-building process. Interviews were conducted in selected IDP camps in Gulu District, as well as parts of Gulu Municipality.

2 Research findings

Three categories of child mothers were identified in the research: those who had been abducted and came home through reception centres, those who had been abducted and did not pass through reception centres on their return, and those who were not abducted but had children while still children themselves. These three categories experienced very different levels of support from those around them. Essentially, while all three groups suffered rejection and exclusion from society, those who had been abducted were doubly rejected because, as well as having had children out of recognised wedlock, they were also associated in people’s minds with the violent lifestyle of the rebels, and therefore represented a deep-seated threat. This finding is significant, in view of the high levels of publicly expressed support and sympathy for the plight of girls abducted by the LRA, about which much has

2

  • nformation drawn from interviews carried out by MDP in the DP camps.

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