Former Child Soldiers (FCS) who were forced to fight in the Liberian civil wars have lived in hardship all of their lives.
As children, they were abducted from their homes and deprived the safety, security and a proper education all children deserve. After the conflicts ended, many child soldiers were unable to return home due to the displacement or death of their families or were simply just not welcomed back. FCS have endured a severe social stigma that has left them extremely marginalized from society.
FCS are further disadvantaged by a lack of government support and exclusion from traditional family/community welfare structures. A high number survive in the fringes of Liberian society in urban slums however, the destruction of the largest slums in Monrovia by the Liberian government has forced internal migration among FCS and cut off some of the few lifelines they had left.
Although party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Liberia has not met its obligations to FCS, to “take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim of ... armed conflicts. Such recovery and reintegration shall take place in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child.”
Social reintegration is a crucial component for FCS to be able to claim their rights in the near future.
To achieve this, they need to overcome such barriers as PTSD and drug addiction that make them vulnerable to exploitation. Previous projects that have focused on the provision of counselling or cash-transfers in the ghettos have been unsuccessful due to the ghettos’ insecurity which discourages long term planning.
Our 12 Week Program
Only in a safe environment away from the ghettos can FCS receive necessary rehabilitative services. In our twelve-week program, FCS will interact with local communities to reduce existing stigma, gain valuable vocational skills for civilian life and better understand their rights with the help of other organizations.
Within a year of the initiation of the project, we aim to provide the first two crucial stages of the plan, rehabilitation and reintegration, to four cohorts of 20 FCS at the Botanical Reintegration Village located in the town of Little Bassa, Liberia. This will lay the foundation for the third stage of mobilization and a final, broader movement of empowerment of FCS within Liberian society.