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This book is a product of a research project called ‘voices of youth’ carried out - page 82 / 125

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A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa

The Uganda study worked with a group of ‘child mothers’, young women who had been sexually abused while still children (some, but by no means all, after having been abducted by the LRA) and who had been subject to gross discrimination by their families and communities as a result of becoming pregnant. The findings were that child mothers experience extreme forms of exclusion, not only from the authorities in the form of the police, courts and reception centres, but also from neighbours and family. Girls who were abducted and have returned through reception centres, girls who were abducted and went directly home, and girls who were not abducted but became pregnant in other circumstances while still under age, experience different forms of discrimination: however, certain features are common to all three categories.

The psychological consequences for the girls themselves and their children are severe and long-term, but the discrimination they face has wider repercussions as well. Arguably, a society which victimises large numbers of its young people because of events which were effectively outside their control is storing up the possibility of further social breakdown in future. Furthermore, the alienation and exclusion of the tens of thousands of children that have been born to child mothers over the last 20 years constitutes a major threat to the future stability of Acholi communities.

Burundi

In Burundi, elections held in 2005 marked the end of the UN-supervised transition, and ushered in a majority government. Burundi is now attempting to address its most critical and immediate problems, which are essentially a depressed economy, a virtually non-functioning judicial system, the threats to security posed by the slow pace of demobilisation and army reintegration, and the provision of health, education and judicial services which will restore people’s faith in government. As in Angola, poor urban and rural populations are facing the results of years of neglect and destruction, as well as their effective exclusion from a political system dominated by educated elites. As in both Uganda, youth in Burundi face multiple threats to their future aspirations.

The research in Burundi focused on the situation of girls who had suffered violence as a result of the war. This included both child mothers, i.e. those who had been made pregnant as a result of sexual abuse suffered while they were still children (either while at home or after having been abducted) and girls who had joined rebel movements as fighters.

The patterns of mistrust and rejection vary.

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