Children in conflict: “There is hope”

It is immoral that adults should want children to fight their wars for them. There is simply no excuse, no acceptable argument for arming children,” said Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The eastern region of our country remains the most affected by repeated warfare, caused by armed forces and rebel armed groups. During these conflicts in North Kivu, many child rights violations are visible and palpable: children remain the main victims of armed conflict because they are killed, orphaned, maimed, forcibly recruited, deprived of an education and health care, all of which lead to very deep psychological problems.

Girls face additional risks by serving as sex slaves and suffer particularly from sexual violence. Recently, during a Young Reporter’s visit to the Children’s Day Centre in Rutshuru, I talked to a girl who had been sexually exploited by an armed group and left traumatised. “During that time, my life was ruined.”

A proverb says “What you do for me, but without me, is against me.”

In Kinshasa from 23 to 27 July 2015, I participated, along with 19 other children from Goma, Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, in the national evaluation workshop on the monitoring and reporting mechanism (MRM) for serious violations of children’s rights in the DRC.

The adults chose not to celebrate 10 years of this mechanism alone; they wanted us to participate so that, together, we could review the situation, celebrate the advances, commit to prevention and achieve an end to all serious violations committed against children during conflict.

Certainly many advances have been made to end this and it gives us hope that children who are in armed groups will soon be disarmed, demobilized and reintegrated into the community. When that day comes, we hope that the entire population of the DRC, particularly children, will be celebrating our country’s removal from the UN Secretary-General’s blacklist.

During the workshop, we communicated our messages in different ways: a TV show with some targeted decision makers, a sketch, a song, an advocacy message and an action plan. The action plan listed the remaining activities that we will conduct on every level, both provincial and national, to end the serious violation of children’s rights during armed conflict.

We do not expect to live in a country that respects our rights in the distant future, but want to live in the near, even immediate, future because we all represent this country’s future.

Read all our other articles about this special workshop!

○ Giving children a voice: Serge is passionate about his work at UNICEF DRC
○ Hoping that better days are not too far away
○ The children of Kinshasa united for children’s rights during armed conflict
○ UNICEF stands by its commitment to putting an end to serious violations to children’s rights in armed conflict

Check out the sketch that the children made a film out of during the workshop. It’s in French, but the acting speaks for itself:

©UNICEF DRC/2015/Batumike
Kindly translated from French by Victoria Steele

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Laetitia a 14 ans et elle est enfant reporter de la ville de Goma ainsi que présidente de la commission Education Jeux Culture et Loisirs du Parlement d'enfants. Défendre les droits de ses semblables est l'une de ses plus grandes passions. Plus tard, Laetitia aimerait devenir une grande journaliste sans s'écarter du domaine de la défense des droits des enfants pour changer le monde. Son credo: « L'enfance congolaise est une arme de construction massive »

Laetitia is 14 and a young reporter from Goma, as well as Chair of the Committee for Education, Games, Culture and Entertainment in the Children's Parliament. Defending the rights of her peers is one of her greatest passions. When she is older, Laetitia would like to become a great journalist, maintaining her dedication to the defense of children's rights to change the world. Her credo: "Congolese children are a weapon of mass construction."

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