The term ‘child soldiers’ refers to children who have been recruited or used by armed forces or groups, whether government armies, guerrilla groups or militias. The term does not refer to children or youths who are involved in street gangs.
Research and discussion topics:
- To what extent is gang violence a problem in your area?
- Are children involved in armed gangs? How old are the children who are involved?
- Why do you think children may be involved in gangs?
- Do you think they have volunteered or have they been forced to join?
- Do you see any similarities between the recruitment of children into armed forces or groups and into gangs?
- For children who are members of a gang
- For other children who are not directly involved
- For the community
- Do you know of stories that show an example of humanitarian behaviour related to situations of gang violence?
Read the stories of Zaw Tun, Myo Win, ‘Susan,’ Renuka and Malar in “Voices of child soldiers.”
Discuss a story in a small group, and then present it to the class, with the help of written notes, drawings or a dramatization that uses ‘freeze frames’ to depict significant moments. After the presentations, discuss the following questions:
- What did the child experience?
- What do you think the effect on the child’s community would be?
- How did becoming a soldier affect these children’s lives and their future?
Refer to the graph showing the views of people in 16 countries on the minimum age for combatants.
Prepare and conduct your own local survey on the question and compare the results with those shown in the graph.
- In what ways were children treated differently from adults?
- What was considered the age of adulthood?
- What were the criteria that defined an adult? Was it the same for boys and girls?
History of child recruitment – Research the use of child soldiers in the past, and examine recruitment practices.
- What social, cultural, ideological and economic factors come into play?
Research the issue of child soldiers today. Identify what is being done in the world and in your country to halt the use of child soldiers.
[For example: demobilization of child soldiers, efforts to reintegrate them into communities, education]
Helpful starting points on the Internet include the websites of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers and Human Rights Watch.
Represent the issue of child soldiers through drawing, painting, music or drama.
Research what needs to be done to make sure the law is respected.