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Transcript of Child Soldiers
The involvement of dependent, developmentally immature children and adolescents in armed conflict that they do not truly comprehend, to which they are unable to give informed consent, and which harmfully affects the child's right to unhindered growth and identity as a child (De Silva, Hobbs, & Hanks, 2001).
At the present, it is estimated that as many as 300,000 children under the age of 18 currently serve in government forces or armed rebel or militia groups around the world (Betancourt, T.S., Agnew-Blais, J., Gilman, S.E., & Williams, D.R., 2009). Although this number may not seem high enough to permit the great attention this issue receives, this number only represents those currently being used as child soldiers and not the growing number of child soldiers that have been used over the past many years. Technological advantages such as the development of lightweight automatic weapons have resulted in an increase in the use of child soldiers in armed conflicts, along with their ability to be easily manipulated and courageous. The International Labour Office states that "The demand for young soldiers is high, as they are known to be less fearful and more obedient than adults..” (International Labour Organization, 2003).
Mental Health Effects
-post traumatic stress
-environment of fear, tied with kindness, to create loyalty within the children
-fear was educated through being threatened with the consequence of death
-forced to brutally murder, even their own family members with weapons or watch as others did so
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
-complex anxiety disorder that may occur when a person experiences or witnesses an event perceived as a threat and in which he or she experiences fear, terror or helplessness (Frey, 2011)
-increasing exposure to life-threatening events
-effects on girls are more severe than boys
-weapon of war
-often strategic and systematic
-Rape is used to terrorize civilian populations; intentionally used to inflict shame
-psychological trauma resulting
-elevated risk of sexually transmitted infections; HIV/AIDS, Traumatic fistula, Syphilis
-large amounts of stigma
-forced to endure brutal conditions, hard work, poor medical care and inadequate nutrition at a crucial time in their development
-forced to endure harsh
beatings and carry incredibly heavy loads
-emerged from war with missing limbs or other serious wounds; bullets and shrapnel that remain embedded in their bodies
-some forced, some by choice
-some groups pay soldiers
-social exclusion, mistreatment, lack of educational opportunities, and lack of jobs in rural and marginal areas (Briggs, 2005, p. 43)
"Some felt they had lost educational opportunities but others felt they had gained educational opportunities. Some felt they had lost friendships while others felt they had gained friendships from their time in the militia, rebel, or government groups (Thompson, 2002)".
Role of Social Work
-play a significant role in addressing the issue of child soldiers
-involved in prevention and aftercare
-specialize in working on this type of dramatic change and are particularly suited to fighting problems at all levels
-reintegration is often the most difficult aspect of the recovery process
-UNICEF partners with communities to do this and through the process of creating safe zones, military groups need to work together in an effort to protect their children (UNICEF, 2008)
-either ethnic or class conflicts continue to fuel the fighting
-"cheap, effective and obedient fighters" (Landau, n.d.)
-social workers contribute greatly
-many questions that need to be researched further in regards to the use and process of child soldiers
-face an enormous challenge in trying to return to normal civilian life
-demobilization is necessary
-meeting the basic necessities is only the beginning of the rehabilitation process
-require counseling, psychological support and medical attention
In regards to females..
-have their own set of needs
-must take into account the great stigma
-Once the communities better understands what the girl has been through they are often quickly accepted and less shunned by the community