GUEST BLOGGER – Six months ago, 17-year old Sebiheri began a welding and fitting workshop. Today, having finished his vocational training, he is being hired full-time by the owner thanks to his hard work.
What leads children and young people to join armed groups? Misery, suffering, unemployment and having no hope for a better life. And what drives young people to leave these armed groups? They want to escape the hell of violence and deprivation, but another more important reason is the support, patience and love of caring people who help them to regain a foothold in their lives. And to create a better future.
The story of Bienvenu
Bienvenu is 21 years old. He is married and has two young children. He is currently working on the construction of a bridge in Rutshuru, North Kivu. Through this work he is able to support his family and start saving.
“I joined an armed group when I was 15 years old. My father was polygamous and I lived with my stepmother who made me suffer a lot. I decided to join an armed group, I stayed there for several years but I had a terrible life. I finally left the bush when my son fell seriously ill and I had to return to help my wife look after our child. After I was demobilised, I was welcomed back by the community. When the chance came along to work on the construction project, I found hope again. I no longer think about going back to the armed group. When the construction project is over, I plan to use my savings to improve my farming skills, rent a field and become part of the community. I want to tell my story to everyone who has joined the armed groups, to tell them to stop and come and work in the community and be useful to society”
Bienvenu was selected to work on the construction of the bridge in Rutshuru together with 350 other workers by the working group “Support for the Stabilisation of the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo through the reintegration of former Children Associated with Armed Forces and Armed Groups (CAAFAG) and other vulnerable children in Rutshuru, North Kivu”. CAAFAG is financed by the Government of Japan, and is being implemented by four United Nations agencies: UNDP, UNICEF, WFP and UN Women and two public bodies including the INPP (National Institute of Professional Training) and BRP (Office of the Special Representative of the Head of State on sexual violence). The CAAFAG project in Rutshuru is responsible for the social and economic reintegration of children and young people linked to armed groups and the 1000 adults, parents, guardians and host families who receive them.
From vocational training to employment
The first cohort of interns undertaking vocational training with the INPP have just finished their training which began on the 16th May 2016. Within this group, 47 young people began their training courses in the following fields: photography, hairdressing, driving instruction, fitting & welding and IT. In total 39 graduated and 8 dropped out for various reasons.
At the end of the training 4 trainees had already been kept on as employees by the host companies where they learned their trade. The other young people are waiting for their toolkits so they can start up their own business.
Noni is 18 years old. He has just finished a photography course and currently lives with his parents and six sisters in Rutshuru. “I went to the training centre because I was told they could give us an opportunity to learn, all of us children who lived in the bush… I spent a year in an armed group that I joined with my friends. The others are still there. I left because of the pain and suffering of that life. UPEDECO helped us when we left the militia. They put us in touch with UNICEF who in turn told us about vocational training. I chose photography because my dream is to become a photographer cameraman. For me, photography is a way to get to where I really want. There were 12 of us on the four month course. We learned the theory and composition but also how to speak to clients”.
“I am living proof that you can get out”
On the edge of a large patch of ground where the local primary school students hold their gym classes, a group of young people are engaged in joyous commotion, sparks fly everywhere. Following the instructions of their trainer Celestine, the students assemble iron bars, straighten sheet metal and weld the supports for what will become a metal door. Six months ago, 17-year old Sebiheri joined this welding and fitting workshop. Today, having finished his training, he is being hired full-time by the owner thanks to his hard work.
“In 2014, I decided to go into the bush to join an armed group- I had given up, I didn’t study, I didn’t do anything. I met other soldiers in the fields who convinced me to join. I stayed there for two years, without any contact with my family. When I came back my mother was so happy. I left the armed group because of the suffering. I had to leave, I had no future in the militia. There were two of us who left the group at the same time. The other boy had the phone number of MONUSCO who helped us and told us about the the training courses run by the INPP. I chose to become a welder because the skills can help me to develop myself. The training went well and I can now make a window by myself! In the future I would like to open my own welding workshop” says Sebiheri.
“I live with my mother and four brothers and sisters. Our father is dead. Mother is a farmer and she keeps the family going by herself. Now my work will also help to support the family. The INPP has helped me a lot, they have taught me the skills to have a job for life“.
Challenges of vocational training
Sebiheri owes his success to his determination but also to the support of his trainer, Celestine. Himself an ex-child soldier, Celestine now has his own company. He understands the challenges of training young people who have lost their way and been exposed to violence.
“As a former child soldier, I know reintegration is not easy. So now I do everything I can to train former child soldiers. This is the second cohort I have trained. The collaboration with the INPP is helping young people as well as the community. Today I am married and have six children; this can be a reality for the young people that I coach too- I am living proof that you can get out.”
Vocational training help former child soldiers in the DRC start a new life
- Trésor : 6 years with a weapon, now with a wood plane
- From child soldier to professional mechanic
- 6 questions about the issue of child soldiers in DRC
Children not soldiers
Thanks to Sweden (SIDA), the USA (USAID), Canada (GAC) , Japan (JICA), the Netherlands, Belgium as well as UNICEF France, Amade, UNICEF Germany and previously CERF for their support to programmes assisting children released from armed groups and forces.
Photo Credit: UNDP DRC / Aude Rossignol / 2016
Article translated by Illen Rowe
Aude Rossignol travaille comme spécialiste en communication au PNUD RDC depuis mars 2016, après avoir servi l’organisation au Burundi pendant 4 ans. Avant de rallier les Nations Unies, elle a travaillé pour diverses ONG de développement en Bolivie, au Pérou et en Belgique dans le domaine de la communication, du plaidoyer et de l’éducation au développement. Passionnée par l’humanité et profondément optimiste, elle met ses compétences au service d’un monde meilleur.
Aude Rossignol has worked as a Communications Specialist at UNDP DRC since March 2016, after working for the same organisation in Burundi for four years. Before joining the UN, she worked for various development NGOs in Bolivia, Peru and Belgium in the fields of communication, advocacy and sustainable development. Aude is passionate about humanity, deeply optimistic and is using her skills to help create a better world.