I went to North Uganda (West Nile Response) to conduct a focus group discussion with the peace club there and was inspired by Mamawi, 15, when he said: “Children are forced to join armed groups. Is it for me to put more effort or is it community leaders, is it political leaders? We have to join hands. So these children will be rescued from the army. They will become powerful future leaders in their community. Dear leaders, we have to work hard so children will not face more problems.”
I also met young people from Bangladesh and Ethiopia from the young leader programme, who said that reading Mary’s story from DRC brought them sadness as well as hope. Foysel, 15, from Bangladesh, said: “It’s a sad story, but I am inspired by Marie’s story because she escaped from the militia, and she wants to protect the next generation. I am not a victim like Marie, but I believe a world without violence against children is possible.”
Young people in the UK were also shocked while reading the stories. Asini, 19, said: “It made me sad that these were things that are completely unknown by the majority of individuals in the world who as a result are unable to help to prevent it from happening.”
Mr. Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Geneva, gave his support to this initiative by writing the foreword of the report. He reinforces that anyone who acts at any moment, for any human right is a human rights defender. With this report, he said that together we are creating a global movement for children and young people as human rights defenders.
As a result of the discussions, young people created three distinct calls for action for the UK government:
- To use its political influence and diplomacy with governments of conflict-affected countries
- To provide more funding for projects in countries affected by conflicts and to use the UK’s global leadership to encourage other governments to do the same
- And to provide a platform for British youths to raise awareness and discuss solutions to help children being used in armed forces and groups.
Click here to read the Their Fight, Our Future report.
By Dr. Carine Le Borgne (Senior Policy Advisor WVUK) with Lauren Vail (Children's Communications Officer WVUK)