The recruitment of children in armed forces and groups has been such a reality for us here in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The practice has caused the violation of many children’s rights.
In Rutshuru Territory in DRC’s North Kivu Province, UPDECO (Union for the Promotion of Children’s Rights in Congo), thought it would be a good idea to establish a “Children’s Day Centre” with the aim of welcoming children who have escaped armed forces and groups.
Japan’s Ambassador in DRC, His Excellency (HE) Shigeru USHIO, accompanied by a UNICEF Eastern Zone team, three Young Reporters from Goma, and journalists of the Media Network for Development (REMED) from North Kivu, travelled to Kiwanja to visit the Children’s Day Centre to which Japan contributes significantly.
HE Ushio has followed the activities carried out in this centre, including saving children who lived in armed forces and groups as well as their reintegration into the community.
During the press conference at the end of the visit, my colleague Laetitia, a Young Reporter from Goma like me, wanted to know about the objective of the Ambassador’s visit to the Children’s Day Centre, and also what benefits the visit would bring to the promotion of children’s rights.
HE the Ambassador Ushio said he was satisfied with his visit and added:
“My mission here is to see with my own eyes the impact of our contribution and to see which measures we could further support in terms of promoting children’s rights.”
On the subject of the aim of the Ambassador of Japan’s visit to Rutshuru, Madame Marie from UNICEF Zone East Protection Section added: “It is important for us to be here to show our Japanese donors their contribution to Child Protection activities; this support helps several children to reintegrate into a family life and sometimes even take on small jobs.”
At the Children’s Day Centre, former child soldiers are taught recreational activities and jobs to prepare them for their reintegration into society, such as was explained to us by Madame Maombi Jeanine, a counsellor in the Centre.
“We introduce them to several skills, including knitting, hairdressing, carpentry, and that’s just the beginning. The children take part in various games such as draughts, football, basketball, etc. It progressively helps to make their trauma go away. All these skills are taught to them so that they can start an occupation once they leave the Centre.”
We met Éric (pseudonym), a young adult who is now reintegrated into society and manages a hairdressing salon. Eric had been abducted whilst he was harvesting the fields with his parents and he was forcibly incorporated into an armed group where he was also forced to learn how to use weapons to kill. He eventually found an opportunity to escape through the forest and was found welcomed by the Children’s Day Centre. That was where he learnt hairdressing skills.
“I now have my own hairdressing salon and, thanks to the money I earn, I’m able to pay for my studies,” Eric tells us with a smile on his face.
My fellow Young Reporter friends, Laetitia and Jospin, and I spent an enlightening day listening to the stories, full of hope, of the children in the Centre and we even had the opportunity to play with them.
I call on all people of good will to keep up their efforts, just as the Japanese people are doing so to support various activities to promote children’s rights in DRC. I also call on our Government to continue encouraging this sort of initiative because child recruitment to armed forces and groups is a crime that must end.
Photos: UNICEF RDC 2015 Jospin Benekire
Translated from French by Eleanor Hac
Nadia âgée de 15 ans est Enfant Reporter de Goma. Elle est en 4ème littéraire au collège Mwanga et rêve de devenir pédiatre parce son plus grand souhait est de voir les enfants en bonne santé.
Nadia is a 15 year-old Young Reporter from Goma. She's in Litterary year four at Mwanga secondary school and dreams of becoming a pediatrician because her strongest wish is to see children in good health.
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