Despite the existence of a national action plan – and concerted efforts to implement it – to put an end to girls and boys being recruited by or in any other way affiliated with armed groups, thousands of South Sudanese children still find themselves within military ranks.
Recently, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) teamed up with local authorities to conduct two-day workshops on the issue, reaching out to relevant stakeholders in the counties of Mundri East and Tambura.
“The sons and daughters of divorced mothers are often disrespected, mistreated and considered less lovable than other children. For this reason, they are particularly at risk of being recruited by armed forces, and they are also more likely to find army life a better option than staying at home,” said Doris Kayanga, member of a women’s group in Lui in Mundri County.
She and some 50 other representatives of both armed forces and civil society, one third of whom were women, attended a workshop aimed at providing participants with increased knowledge of children’s rights and the frequently dire consequences suffered by boys and girls carrying arms instead of pens and schoolbooks.
“This has been an important training because it is the first time that I am being made aware of these serious issues. From now on, I will be an ambassador for children’s rights and do my bit to make sure that boys and girls are not recruited or used by our troops,” said Phillip Dor, representing the South Sudan People’s Defence Force.
According to Margreta Fozia Emmanuel, Mundri East County Commissioner, community leaders and other civilians must also play their part to keep children safe and at school.
“Children are vulnerable, and we are all responsible for their welfare. We have an obligation not to keep quiet if we notice that their rights are not respected. Community leaders should take the lead in making sure that suspected violations are reported,” she said.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).