Research Handbook on Child Soldiers
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Research Handbook on Child Soldiers

Edited by Mark A. Drumbl and Jastine C. Barrett

Child soldiers remain poorly understood and inadequately protected, despite significant media attention and many policy initiatives. This Research Handbook aims to redress this troubling gap. It offers a reflective, fresh and nuanced review of the complex issue of child soldiering. The Handbook brings together scholars from six continents, diverse experiences, and a broad range of disciplines. Along the way, it unpacks the life-cycle of youth and militarization: from recruitment to demobilization to return to civilian life. The overarching aim of the Handbook is to render the invisible visible – the contributions map the unmapped and chart new directions. Challenging prevailing assumptions and conceptions, the Research Handbook on Child Soldiers focuses on adversity but also capacity: emphasising the resilience, humanity, and potentiality of children affected (rather than ‘afflicted’) by armed conflict.
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Chapter 23: How to find the ‘hidden’ girl soldier? Two sets of suggestions arising from Liberia

Leena Vastapuu


Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programmes risk leaving girl soldiers behind. Even though the reasons behind the voluntary and/or involuntary exclusion of girl soldiers are widely understood, informal exchanges with current DDR practitioners suggest that there remains an acute need to record easily applicable methods for tracing the ‘hidden’ girl soldier in various conflict surroundings around the world. This chapter draws from a data set comprising 133 semi-structured interviews and 25 auto-photographic interviews conducted with former girl soldiers in Liberia between 2012 and 2014. The chapter provides two sets of suggestions on how (and how not) to address the challenge of the invisible girl soldier. The first substantive part of the chapter is targeted primarily at academic researchers wishing to undertake empirical fieldwork on the ground. In addition to a practical discussion that leans on autobiographical field notes and research journals, some of the numerous challenges and contradictions of the ‘do no harm’ principle are addressed. The second part provides practical interview tips, in particular for DDR officers undertaking screening interviews in conflict sites themselves.

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