ipods and AK-47s

Over recent years there has been a steady rise in the use of children in war zones throughout the world. A number of conflicts involve trafficked children.

Sierra Leone, a country situated on the West coast of Africa, is slowly recovering after an 11 year civil war fought between the government and the rebel group RUF (Revolutionary United Front).  The forcible trafficking of children during this war was widespread, leaving a legacy one can only imagine.

Up to 10,000 boys and girls were involved in the conflict.  They were mainly between 8 and 14 years old and abducted from their villages.  Street children, many of whom lost their entire family in the conflict, were especially vulnerable to being kidnapped and trafficked.  Their experiences varied according to gender BUT both suffered horrendous abuses.

Boys 

In an attempt to control the children and turn them into fearless warriors, boys were forced to consume large volumes of alcohol and had gunpowder and cocaine sprinkled into their wounds.  This had two major effects: it would make them dependant on their trafficker and it would make them addicted to drugs and as a consequence easier to control.  Boys were also forced to kill their own family members, if you can kill your family you can kill anybody (or so the twisted logic goes).  The list of abuse goes on…

Girls  

Known as ‘bush wives’, girls as young as 8, were forcibly married to commanders based in the Sierra Leonean wilderness.  These girls were used as sex slaves and were at the mercy of their ‘husband’. 

The Sierra Leonean war may be over, but the battle still goes on.  Today, all over the world, children are being trafficked into war zones in countries like Sri Lanka, Colombia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

If you remember one thing, remember this.  At the same time a 9 year old child in your neighbourhood is fiddling about with his or her Ipod, another child is fiddling about with their AK-47. 

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3 thoughts on “ipods and AK-47s

  1. Erica

    This blog is both poignant and inspirational while touching on such a serious issue. While I was reading it, I could not help but think of the images from the movie “Blood Diamond.” At the time when I saw the movie over a year ago, I could not help but think…is this a true issue…are children really vulnerable to WAR and if so what are people doing about it? At the time when I saw the movie, or learned about the issue of child soldiers, the phrase “child trafficking” was foreign to me. Through your blog and the work that Stop the Traffik has done, I have become aware of the issue of child trafficking. Stop the Traffik has inspired me to do more. These children need our help and it is up to “us”-the individuals who care, to make a different. This issue does not only affect boys, but young girls are affected to. Too many times we forget that WAR is a societal issue, it does not just effect the government and those abroad, it’s an issue that effects our brothers, sisters and the family members of all. Thank you for posting this blog. I will continue to raise awareness about child trafficking and I challenge all who read this blog to do the same. What will you do…think!

  2. pia gadkari

    Erica, thanks for your really thoughtful comment. It’s great to know we have like-minded readers out there, and your participation on this blog and your efforts with your friends and community are invaluable. please continue to act and raise awareness! and keep letting us know how you like what your reading!

  3. Phil Lane

    Thanks for this article – children being trafficked into armed conflicts is a very important subject. Oasis Uganda is a part of Stop the Traffik and is active in helping children returning from such horrors. We offer them computer literacy alongside a coalition of other organisations headed by World Vision, each offering a different skill or counselling. Here’s the story of one of the boys;

    Stephen, aged 18 years, was abducted by the LRA rebels in April 1997 and endured much suffering during his time in captivity. He managed to escape the following year in April. Tragically, his parents were killed by the rebels after his abduction. On his return, he was taken in by World Vision Gulu where he received counseling and rehabilitation at the Children of War Centre. He later joined the Net2Work Gulu eAcademy where he received training in basic computing.

    Through encouragement and support from the staff, Stephen was able to gain interest in computer studies and his self esteem improved greatly through the life skills lessons. He graduated in March 2008 and is currently working as a manager for a Computer Secretarial shop and he is now able to provide for himself and his family. He has future plans to save money to further his studies in computing.
    “Net2Work Gulu is doing a great job for young people like who have been affected by the war and are left helpless. Without the help of World Vision and Net2Work, I think I’d steal for a living…”
    If you want to find out more about Oasis Uganda you can visit http://www.oasisuganda.org

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