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Red Shoes: Experiences of Girl Combatants in Liberia

Red Shoes: Experiences of Girl Combatants in Liberia

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Published by woodstockwoody
This study examines the experiences of female ex-combatants in Liberia.The study aims to gain insights in
the motives of Liberian girls for taking up arms and their reintegration needs. It also aims to
highlight the key issues for improving gender sensitive prevention and reintegration policies.
This study examines the experiences of female ex-combatants in Liberia.The study aims to gain insights in
the motives of Liberian girls for taking up arms and their reintegration needs. It also aims to
highlight the key issues for improving gender sensitive prevention and reintegration policies.

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Published by: woodstockwoody on Sep 18, 2011
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01/16/2013

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Experiences of girl-combatantsin Liberia
Report coordinated by Irma Specht
 
Programme on Crisis Response and Reconstruction
InternationalLabour OfficeGeneva
 
Preface
Liberia is on the difficult path of recovery after 14 years of conflict. The conflict in Liberiahas created havoc, misery and trauma. But people are filled with hope, busy reconstructing a peaceful society. Successful demobilization of combatants from various fighting factions,including those of Government, is key to create, but even more, to sustain peace.Thousands of youth take up arms during violent conflict, in many cases a key motive is thelack of job opportunities. Lessons from the past teach us that the process of disarmament anddemobilization can only be successful if strong reintegration support follows immediatelyafter the first 2 steps are completed.Although women generally comprise between 10 and 30 percent of armed forces and groups,surprisingly little research has been done to on the lives of girl combatants in armed conflict.How does it affect their personalities? How do gender relations affect their choices? How dothey cope after the conflict is ended? Are they able to use their experience to increase gender equality? Or do they go back to their earlier status of inequality? Do they have differentneeds then men? And if so, how well do DDR processes and programmes address these?The ILO’s Crisis Recovery and Reconstruction Programme recognizes gender equality as acentral element in equitable, effective reconstruction and development, and for “universaland lasting peace”, a major precept of ILO’s Constitution. It has a special work item on crisisand gender, aiming at creating a “new environment” with less structural imbalances betweenmen and women, primarily in the world of work, but also in other spheres.The present study on the experiences of female ex-combatants in Liberia was coordinated byIrma Specht, a former ILO Official and experienced consultant on matters related to DDR,through her consultancy firm Transparency International. The study aims to gain insights inthe motives of Liberian girls for taking up arms and their reintegration needs. It also aims tohighlight the key issues for improving gender sensitive prevention and reintegration policies.The study was facilitated and financed as a joint initiative by UNDP, UNICEF and the ILO.Alfredo LazarteDirector a.i.Crisis Response and Reconstruction ProgrammeILO1
 
Acknowledgements
This study has been outsourced to the consultancy firm Transition International (TI) whichspecializes on war-to-peace transitions, particularly socio-economic reintegration of ex-combatants and war affected children and youth.This report is the result of a collaborative effort by a group of dedicated people. The primaryresearch was conducted by Annemiek Buskens, who lived for three months in the field withthe girl-soldiers as an anthropologist. Irma Specht wrote the report assisted by YvonneKemper and Larry Attree. Liberian researchers Constance, Estella Nelson andWinnieSaywahprovided translation and research assistance on the ground.Thanks are due to UNICEF personnel in Liberia, especially to Keith Wright and the staff of the Child Protection Unit, in particular Fatuma Ibrahimwho provided both practicalassistance and supported the project with invaluable contacts, advice and guidance.Thanks are also due to all the social workers and caregivers (of CCF, IRC, CAP, THINK andWACDO) who shared their views and experiences and provided additional contacts with girlcombatants.The utmost appreciation is reserved for the young girls interviewed. Without their opennessand cooperation this report would not have been possible. Their strength of character,courage, commitment and tenacity deserve recognition. This report is thus a tribute to theyoung girls who shared their stories and reflections. It is also a memorial for their friends andthe many others who did not live to tell their stories.Special gratitude is reserved for Ellen, her bodyguards, close friends and her girls who notonly shared their life stories, but also looked after the research team in an extremely open andwarm manner.2

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