The Recruitment of Children as Soldiers Explained

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was written by one of our passionate readers, Ms. Katarzyna Rybarczyk, a Political Correspondent. The opinions expressed within reflect only the writer’s views and not The European Sting’s position on the issue.

Children should never take part in armed conflicts. In fact, as UNICEF says, the use of child soldiers by armed groups represents a severe violation of international humanitarian law. The Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, developed by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and signed by more than 150 countries, prohibits the recruitment and use of children in wars. And yet, each year, thousands of children are recruited into militant organisations in various regions around the world. 

Most of the time, children join armed groups because they are forced to do so. Sometimes, however, they join voluntarily, encouraged by false promises of safety and good income that would allow their families to get out of poverty. Either way, those who end up as child recruits face unimaginable physical and psychological abuses. In addition to that, they are likely to be rejected by the communities they grew up in, which can leave them with no choice but to rejoin the militant groups in the future. 

Who recruits children

A great proportion of child soldiers is recruited by non-state actors, which use terror as one of their main tactics. Given that children committing acts of violence and taking away civilians’ lives is viewed by the public as particularly distressing, these groups specifically deploy children in terrorist attacks and direct combat. That was the case with, for example, ISIS that enlisted more than a thousand children for armed combat and suicide terrorism missions. The children were called ‘Cubs of the Caliphate’ and were expected to kill and promote the group’s extremist ideology. ISIS saw a great number of minors joining its ranks voluntarily as the organisation promised them free education. Sadly, however, the education programme ISIS offered was composed of shari’a classes and training in using weapons. As a result of that, these children would grow up having a distorted vision of the world. 

Unfortunately, state armed forces sometimes also recruit children. In fact, ten countries still allow child recruitment into their militaries. That includes Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen. In these countries, the main motivation of children to join the armed forces is destitution. Armies give them food and shelter that they lack in their communities.  

Girls are child soldiers too   

When people think of child soldiers, many of them think of young boys. Nevertheless, according to the UN, four out of ten child soldiers are girls. They are recruited primarily to become wives of adult male fighters. The majority of them are abducted and coerced into joining. Some girls, whose freedom is limited in conservative societies they come from, however, are tempted by the idea of being more independent and getting the chance to oppose traditional gender roles. Hence, they decide to join the groups, not thinking about the possible consequences of their actions. 

Once girls are recruited, they face sexual exploitation and abuses. In addition to forced marriages, they are often subject to forced pregnancies and trafficking. As a result of that, they have to deal with double trauma, the one caused by taking part in a war, and the one caused by repeated sexual exploitation. The harms of their participation in armed groups affect their lives even after they leave the organisations’ ranks. For example, after the girls are liberated from their oppressors, they face troubles if they want to remarry as society sees them as ‘contaminated.’ 

Uncertain future of former child soldiers

The problem of the recruitment of children as soldiers has been proving particularly challenging to eliminate. The groups that use child soldiers ignore the calls of the international community asking them to put an end to it. In a simmilar manner, the exact numbers of children who are members of armed forces and groups are unknown as these actors try to conceal their participation. 

Most child soldiers have been deprived of access to accurate education and even after they manage to escape they have limited professional and social opportunities. On top of that, thousands of former child soldiers are experiencing physical and emotional trauma that is stopping them from rebuilding their lives. If they struggle with rejoining society, there is a big risk of them being recruited and exploited again. For that reason, it is imperative that substantial funding is allocated to reintegration support programmes and former child soldiers are not abandoned by the international community. Without that, there is little hope that they will ever escape the cycle of violence. 

About the author
Katarzyna Rybarczyk is a Political Correspondent for Immigration News. This is a media platform that helps to raise awareness about migrant injustices and news around the world and helps people get immigration advice.

Join the Hive!

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

MasterCard at European Business Summit 2015: A focus on innovation will drive inclusive economic growth for Europe

Children are still dying in Yemen war, despite partial ceasefire, says UNICEF chief

London wants new skyscrapers to protect cyclists from wind tunnels

Security Union: Commission receives mandate to start negotiating international rules for obtaining electronic evidence

Release of prize-winning Reuters journalists in Myanmar welcomed by UN

The EU’s outermost regions: strengthened partnership bears fruit

EU prolongs economic sanctions on Russia by six months

European Citizens’ Initiative: Commission decides to register ‘Right to Cure’ initiative

10 lessons from the COVID-19 frontline for a more gender-equal world

The European Parliament rewrites the EU budget in a bright day for the Union

Why exchange programs are essential for the medical students of the 21st century

Doctors vs. Industry 4.0: who will win?

Western Balkans: MEPs take stock of 2018 progress

World Health Organization calls crisis meeting over deadly Ebola outbreak in DR Congo

Business uncertainty rises as US grants only temporary exception to EU for steel and aluminium tariffs

Cybersecurity needs a holistic approach. Here are three ways to build protection

Commission offers discount on fines to banks for competition infringements

Oleg Sentsov awarded the 2018 Sakharov Prize

These 5 charts show our shifting behaviour around coronavirus

Conflict, climate change among factors that increase ‘desperation that enables human trafficking to flourish’, says UN chief

Nine children killed or maimed in Afghanistan every day: UN Children’s Fund

Although Greece is struggling to pay salaries and pensions Varoufakis is “optimistic”; the Sting reports live from EBS 2015

Draghi repels Trump’s threats, rejects Schauble’s dictums

This surgeon runs a makeshift hospital for over 200,000 people

UN chief extends condolences to families of China landslide casualties

Education in Emergencies: EU announces record humanitarian funding for 2019 and launches #RaiseYourPencil Campaign

A European Discovers China: 3 First Impressions

Why philanthropy for – and by – Africans is the future

Voices of Afghan women ‘must be heard at the table in the peace process and beyond’ UN deputy chief tells Security Council

Drinking water: new plans to improve tap water quality and cut plastic litter

JADE Team at the European Business Summit 2017

Respect people’s peaceful assembly and fair trail rights, UN human rights wing urges Nicaragua

The consequences of Brexit seen by a European young entrepreneur

The EU Spring Summit set to challenge austerity

How India is solving its cooling challenge

Why the 21st century’s biggest health challenge is our shared responsibility

These entrepreneurs are turning discarded fishing nets into surfboards and swimwear

Building cybersecurity capacity through benchmarking: the Global Cybersecurity Index

Ministers for Youth miss the opportunity to improve social inclusion of young people

Harnessing the power of nature in the fight against climate change

Nearly three million more displaced year-on-year, warns refugee agency chief, but solutions are within reach

UN commission agrees roadmap on ensuring women’s social protection, mobility, safety, and access to economic opportunities

EU confronts environmental threats as global leaders attempt to revive the global sentiment at NYC climate week

Why remote working doesn’t have to mean alienated employees

UN chief seeking ‘renewed commitment’ to global rules and values, as world leaders head to New York

Strong multilateral institutions key to tackling world’s dramatic challenges, UN chief says In Moscow

We had the hottest June ever this year – this is what happened around the world

Human Rights and Democracy: striving for dignity and equality around the world

China, forever new adventures

Employment and Social Developments in Europe: 2018 review confirms positive trends but highlights challenges, in particular linked to automation and digitalisation

Main results of Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) – 18-19/10/2018

UN expert condemns new sentence for jailed Venezuelan judge as ‘another instance of reprisal’

This new programme could hold the key to solving global health challenges

Two-thirds of employees would trust a robot boss more than a real one

LGBTQ+ inclusion on the other side of the screen

How communities are dealing with economy, society and education in COVID-19 crisis     

A Sting Exclusive: EU Commission’s Vice President Šefčovič accentuates the importance of innovation to EU’s Energy Union

November infringements package: key decisions

Bigotry makes politicians ‘complicit in the violence that follows’ : UN independent experts

Acute food insecurity ‘far too high’ UN agency warns, as 113 million go hungry

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s