child soldiers, child soldiers africa, child soldiers congo
Child soldiers in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

How to Help Child Soldiers in Africa

March 14, 2012 04:00 PM
by Kate Davey
The Invisible Children campaign has brought a lot of attention to the issue of child soldiers. Here are some other ways that concerned students can help child soldiers in Africa.

Child Soldiers: An International Concern

The issue of child soldiers is hardly new; children have fought in battles since at least the Middle Ages, including in the American Revolution and the U.S. Civil War. In 2001, Child Soldiers International issued a report on modern use of child soldiers that served as a wake-up call for many governments and non-government organizations. At findingDulcinea, we wrote about child soldiers in the Congo in 2008, and in Pakistan in 2009

The United Nations estimates that there are about 300,000 child soldiers in conflicts worldwide. Although enlisting them is illegal under several different international laws, many governments recruit and enlist child soldiers. In addition, many rebel groups use child soldiers.

Lesson for Students: How to Become Involved in Helping Child Soldiers

Students wishing to support child soldiers may wish to research organizations that are working directly to help current and former child soldiers.

The Child Soldier Relief Foundation advocates on behalf of former child soldiers through news updates, interviews, original research, international law summaries and an overview of lesson plans from supporting organizations, including The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights, the Red Cross, and the United Nations.
Note: The author works for the Child Soldier Relief Foundation.

In addition, “Children of War,” a documentary produced by Bryan Single, follows the rehabilitation process of former LRA child soldiers in a rehabilitation center in Uganda. The film was filmed over a period of three years and shows how these children are able to heal through working with trauma counselors.

Child Soldier Initiative is led by retired Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire and works to “increase the ability of security forces to prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers.” Through a PDF report outlining its five-year plan, CSI explains that you should care about the issue because child soldiers are used to create products that are used by the Western public. CSI further gives a detailed explanation of their funding activities and how donations help the organization to stop the use of child soldiers.

The Mandala House teaches yoga to former child soldiers as a form of therapeutic rehabilitation.

Child Soldier International works to stop the use of child soldiers.

For students who want to become actively involved, each year on Feb. 12 the Red Hand Day organization “draws attention to the situation of child soldiers” by encouraging students and others to paint a hand red in honor of child soldiers and mail it to elected officials.

There are numerous other reputable organizations working on behalf of child soldiers. The following all received four stars from Charity Navigator:
  • Save the Children
  • Doctors Without Borders, USA

About the Author

Kate Davey, co-founder of findingDulcinea, is also a Director of Research for Child Soldier Relief Foundation. Ms. Davey received her Masters of Law in International Human Rights Law from the National University of Ireland, Galway, and focused her thesis on the topic of former child soldiers in the Lord’s Resistance Army. She was also a law clerk with the International Criminal Court.

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