You are in: Home :: News Story
120,000 Girls Believed to be Child
By Joe De Capua
Voice of America
25 April 2005
A new report says of the estimated 300,000 child
soldiers around the world, about 40 percent of them are girls. Save
the Children says the girls are often front line fighters or used as
porters or cooks. And many are sexually abused.
Charly Cox works for Save the Children and has met many former
girl soldiers in West Africa. From London, she spoke with English
to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the problems they face.
She says, “I was in Sierra Leone and Liberia, which are
thankfully post-conflict now. But I did meet girls who had been
involved with the armed forces there. Girls who had been abducted at
gunpoint from their villages in the early hours of the morning and
who were forced to be so-called wives of the commanders, who
abducted them. Their stories were widespread and not unusual. And I
think I was really shocked by the age at which that could happen to
girls. I met girls who had been abducted at the age of eight and had
been forced to be wives for several years.”
While the girls she met did not take part in actual combat, some
of them were forced to carry heavy munitions. She calls the “the
backbone” of the army, being forced to cook and clean.
As for being ‘wives,’ Ms. Cox says, “We would probably use terms
like sexual possession or sexual slave. But essentially girls were
being abducted and forced to become the sexual partners of one or
The Save the Children report says improvements need to be made in
DDR, which stands for Disarmament, Demobilization and
Reintegration. It says often the post-conflict programs do not
address the needs of girls and concentrate more on the number of
weapons turned in.
Save the Children has programs that reintegrate the former child
soldiers with children in their villages to help them remember what
its like to be a child. It says this also helps them to be accepted
by their families, who often view them as unclean. The aid
organization is calling on the international community to do more to
help the girls.