The use of child soldiers is a worldwide problem. The number of children recruited into armed forces in the hundreds of thousands. The impact of being a child soldier is devastating on the child both mentally and physically. These issues can haunt the child for the rest of their life. Thankfully?? there are a number of organisations throughout the world trying to stop the use of child soldiers in the first instance but also trying to help children who have become child soldiers return to civilian life.
Any boy or girl under the age of eighteen who is recruited or used by an armed force is considered to be a child soldier. However, a child does not necessarily need to participate in any conflict. A child soldier can also be used in roles such as cooks, porters, messengers, human shields, spies, suicide bombers and sadly many are used for sexual exploitation by older members in the armed forces. A child soldier also includes any child who is recruited and trained for a military purpose, but is not used in conflict. (Theirworld, 2019)
Military organisations choose to recruit children as they are easier to manipulate or force into service than adults. In the chaos of a war zone it is easy for children to be separated from their families. These children are particularly vulnerable to being recruited into a military organisation. However, there are other reasons children can be recruited to be soldiers. Many children are forced into the life of a child soldier either by being abducted, threatened or coerced into joining. Some are tempted to join with rewards of money and drugs. Others join military service to escape poverty. The African continent has the highest number of child soldiers across the world.
There are currently over a quarter of a million child soldiers in at least twenty different countries across the world. It is estimated that forty percent of these are girls. These girls are often used as sex slaves or are taken as wives by the male soldiers (Theirworld, 2019). No matter what gender a child is, being involved in any form of armed service has a negative impact on the child.
Often the child’s body is still developing both mentally and physically. These developments are disrupted when a child is recruited to become a soldier. Children who are recruited into service, especially children who are involved in combat are at a high risk of being injured or even killed. Those that survive risk suffering from psychological and social problems later on in life as no child should ever have to deal with witnessing and/or contributing to the killing of another person. Children, especially girls, are at a high risk of being sexually assaulted by adults as well as other children. Any child that is recruited by an armed force is unlikely to receive any form of formal education. This will have a huge effect on them in future life.
A number of former child soldiers have stated that they were forced to perform terrible acts whilst being a soldier, for example, having to kill their own parents as initiation into the military group. This initiation is thought to harden the child and make them brutal as well as to demonstrate their loyalty to the group. This event is undoubtedly going to cause psychological damage for the rest of the child\’s life. However there are many organisations across the world whose aims and objectives are to help child soldiers move forward after being subjected to these traumatic experiences
Child Soldiers International
Child Soldiers International is a global human rights organisation with the goal of having a world where children are not used in war. They aim to do this by preventing all recruitment, use and exploitation of children by any armed force or group. They do this by talking to different communities and building a resistance to the recruitment of children, by helping former child soldiers with the reintegration back into society and by supporting and persuading governments and other groups to end the recruitment of children. The organisation follows the human rights framework, as they believe that the military recruitment of children is a human rights violation.
Child Soldiers International is based in London and was created under the name ‘Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers’ in 1998 by a group of leading human rights organisations. These include Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Save the Children. The purpose of the organisation was to campaign for a human rights treaty, which they were successful in having created. The treaty \’Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict’ (OPAC) entered into force in 2002. The treaty prevents military groups recruiting children and using them in armed conflict.
War Child works to build a new world, where no child will have their lives destroyed by war. War is a very real reality for millions of children across the globe. War Child is committed to support these children in overcoming their experiences, so that they can have a real and better future. Children and young people have the right to grow up free from fear and violence, so that they can develop both physically and mentally to achieve their full potential.
War Child consists of three main offices; War Child UK, War Child Holland and War Child Canada. Even though each organisation was founded and operates independently, they are brought together by their common vision and dedication towards the support of helping children and young people who have been affected by war. War Child also has offices in the United States, Sweden, Ireland and Australia. Together these groups work towards helping children all around the world to retake their rights.
Child War helps children in five ways. They provide protection for children from any kind of armed conflict, as well as working to provide better access to relevant and quality education. A war zone is damaging to the mental health of a child, so War Child helps children to rebuild their own self-esteem so they can rebuild relationships with friends and family. They also help with training children in key life and business skills to give a child the chance of a better future. War Child also helps children in receiving the justice that they deserve, by helping them understand and reclaim their rights.
Children, Not Soldiers
The campaign Children, Not Soldiers was launched in 2014 as an initiative of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and Armed Conflict, and UNICEF.
The campaign’s goal was to bring about a global agreement that child soldiers should not be used in conflict. The campaign was designed to generate momentum, political will and international support to stop the recruitment of children by national security forces in conflict situations. The campaign received support from Member States, the United Nations, non government organisation partners, regional organisations and the general public. This campaign had a focus on many countries in the African continent, such as Afghanistan, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen.
The campaign ended in 2016, but they achieved their goal of spreading a global awareness of child soldiers. The campaign successfully saved thousands of child soldiers and helped reintegrate them back into society with the help of UNICEF. Although Children, Not Soldiers it’s work is still happening around the world to this day.