International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Simona Sharoni, Julia Welland, Linda Steiner and Jennifer Pedersen
Chapter 26: Girl soldiers and the complexities of demobilization and reintegration
Scholarship on armed conflict as well as on child soldiers has long been gender blind. This chapter provides an overview of the state of knowledge on girl soldiers and their gendered experiences, with a particular emphasis on the post-conflict period. Addressed are the many issues faced by former girl soldiers in the post-conflict period, including their marginalization from programs of assistance, the social stigma and exclusion from family and community, their economic realities, and the psycho-social impacts of war and its outcomes on their sense of self and identity. To substantiate our analysis, we highlight the experiences of nine former girl soldiers from Colombia, and eight former girl soldiers from Sierra Leone. The chapter highlights the importance of a gendered approach to studying war and child soldiers, and looking beyond traditional dichotomies based on ‘victim versus perpetrator’ and ‘war versus peace’ as girls’ victimization is often intertwined with their agency. Importantly, girls’ options, roles and power relations, both during conflict and following demobilization, are embedded within broader gendered power structures and identities.
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