Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection

By Michael Wessells | Go to book overview

4
Girl Soldiers

In 1995 I worked in Angola, which had been ravaged by decades of war. In visits and discussions with local child protection workers about child soldiers, I asked whether many girls had been soldiers. Invariably, the answer was no, which seemed odd on a continent that has seen pervasive girl soldiering. On the other hand, who was I to question the reports of people who were so close to the local situation of war-affected children? By the year 2000, when the war was winding down, it became apparent that thousands of girls had been soldiers in the Angolan war. In fact, many UNITA soldiers had two or more girls who had been abducted to serve as workers and sex slaves (Stavrou 2005). The girls had been invisible to analysts in part because the recruiters had wanted to hide their exploitation of girls. Also, the girls themselves had kept secret their lives as soldiers in order to avoid being stigmatized.

This story is a microcosm of the study of girl soldiers globally, which has evolved through multiple stages. Initially girl soldiers had been mostly invisible. Although analysts recognized that girl combatants existed and were a significant percentage of fighting forces in a handful of countries, the prevailing view had been that girl soldiers were present in only a minority of conflicts. In the next stage, girls were recognized as being part of many armed groups, but they were often described as “camp followers” who provided labor and support but who were not child soldiers per se. The term child soldiers meant boy soldiers, marginalizing girl soldiers.

In the current stage, a new generation of research has sketched a richer portrait of girl soldiers and revealed the complexities and varia-

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Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Child Soldiers - From Violence to Protection iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Abbreviations xv
  • 1: Child Victims, Young Combatants 1
  • 2: Entry into Armed Groups 31
  • 3: Inside Armed Groups 57
  • 4: Girl Soldiers 85
  • 5: Health and HIV/AIDS 107
  • 6: The Invisible Wounds of War 126
  • 7: Putting Down the Gun 154
  • 8: The Transition to Civilian Life 181
  • 9: Community Reconciliation, Justice, and Protection 208
  • 10: Prevention 232
  • Reference Index 259
  • References 261
  • Index 277
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