Female South Sudanese ex-combatants risk missing vital re-integration process: rights group

Child Soldiers in an unknown location in South Sudan (File photo)

October 11th 2018 (Nyamilepedia) – A rights organization, the Child Soldier International (CSI) has called for a swipe integration process for South Sudanese female ex-combatants into the community urging the South Sudanese leaders to expedite the process.

South Sudan has the highest rate of child soldiers as the country has faced acute security problems since 2010 beginning with the outbreak of war following the 2010 Sudanese general elections.

In a statement issued on Wednesday and seen by the Nyamilepedia, the rights group said South Sudanese female ex-combatants risks missing the vital re-integration process into the community.

“Ahead of International Day of the Girl on 11 October, we share findings from our recent research trip to South Sudan and call for a renewed focus on reintegration support for girls returning from the long-running conflict,” the statement by the rights group said.

The CSI stated that, among the 19,000 child soldiers identified by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) only 30% were unidentified as female combatants.

“Girls associated with armed groups in South Sudan risk missing out on vital reintegration assistance as they are either unaware of available support or are overlooked as they don’t fit the profile of a ‘child soldier. More than 19,000 child soldiers have been recruited since 2013 and while the total number of girls is unclear, of 934 children officially released in 2018, almost 30% were girls,” the statement further said.

The statement further explained that, female ex-combatants in South Sudan are always neglected when it comes to reintegration support, simply  because majority of them are never regarded as beneficiaries.

“However, Child Soldiers International has learnt that girls in some areas, especially those leaving groups independently, are not benefiting from reintegration support, simply because they are not known or considered as potential beneficiaries,” it said.

The group said the same scenario has happened in West Africa, when they were at wars and conflicts among themselves, once female combatants are released by armed forces, the family members hardly encourage them to seek assistance .

“Even after such experiences many are not perceived as ‘child soldiers’ by community members back home and may not be encouraged to seek support. This is unfortunately not an uncommon issue and has been observed in many other countries such as DR Congo and Sierra Leone,” it further added.

The press statement obtained by the Nyamilepedia added that the month-long research conducted in September involved listening to the experience of 51 former female ex-combatant, community members as well as NGOs.

It further pointed out that, there’s a need for South Sudan authorities to change the status quo, and by doing so, it will call for more efforts to address those challenges faced by children who were once associated with armed forces.

“More needs to be done to help communities and civil society recognize these girls, and to work together to change the narrative around perceptions of a ‘child soldier’. In doing so we can ensure that all children are given appropriate, sustained support to improve their reintegration back home,” it added.

“Globally, the role of girls in armed groups has long been overlooked. It is partly down to cultural understanding whereby girls’ involvement in armed conflict is seen as less direct than boys, and thus often not perceived as a threat to communities more concerned with potentially violent boys. As a result, girls have often been excluded from demobilization and reintegration initiatives,” it added.