Because I am a Girl: In the shadow of war 2008
Table of Contents
Plan is a children’s development organisation that started its international existence in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War and opened its first officie in Australia in 1971. It asserts not to have a political or religeous agenda. Their aim is to help children worldwide to overcome poverty and develop to their full potential through protection, empowerment and inspiration. The organization is active throughout more than 49 developing countries, encouraging children to become actively involved and motivating supporters.Plan International website
Their areas of work are as follows:
- Child Health and Early Development
- Water and Sanitation
- Economic Security
- Sexual Health
- Child Protection & Participation
Because I am a Girl Campaign
The 2008 report, “Because I am a Girl: In the shadow of war 2008” is based on the content that was obtained from interviewing 17 girls from Timor-Leste (Southeast Asia).
Throughout many conflicts girls find themselves in a situation where they have to leave their home under compulsion and care for their younger siblings, or occur a risk of rape and other physical violation.
“Children do not start wars. Yet they are most vulnerable to its deadly effects. Millions of innocent children die in conflicts, which is no fault of theirs, just because some greedy leaders rob powers with the barrel of the gun. During such times everything freezes, no education, no drinking water, no electricity, food shortages, no shelter, and most of all some girls are raped leading to HIV/AIDS”. A 17 year old girl from Ghana.
These shocking revelations are included in Plan’s annual Because I Am Girl report, that focuses on girls in war and other forms of conflict.
Figures in the report reveal that:
- 38 countries have used girl soldiers in armed conflict in the last two decades
- 200 million girls live in countries that are at a present risk of an emerging armed conflict
- 90% of victims of modern warfare are civilian with more and more women and children
- About 20 million girls are out of school in war zones
Girls who have been raped or forced into armed forces have immense difficulties to overcome such a trauma and even after the fighting stops, discrimination makes it nearly impossible for them to get back into school or find a job. The after-effect of this does not only mean that a girl’s life chances are severely limited, but the countries’ economic future becomes also severely handicapped through this.
Suggestions for the Future
The report offers suggestions for a brighter future for those affected by conflict.
President of Liberia, and Africa’s first elected woman leader, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, stated that “This report sheds an important and critical light on the often overlooked plight of girls in post-conflict countries that are rife with hostility which threatens their survival and potential. Urgent intervention is required to give girls a chance to lead normal lives that include obtaining an education and access to health care.”
It is clear that education is the key to rehabilitation, enabling the girls to re-establish routines, connect with peers and learn skills for the future. This not only assists them personally, but will enable them to better contribute to their communities in the future.This has prompted writers of the report to call on governments to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child (UNCRC) in providing education, health care and skills training for girls.
Plan’s chief executive in Australia, Ian Wishart suggests that“These recommendations are made in the hope that organisations and institutions at all levels will no longer ignore girls in their policy and planning. Education of girls is key to breaking the cycle of poverty and conflict and this cannot be ignored.”
Through the work of Plan and its cooperations the lifes of many girls change for the better: Girls like Hawa, from Sierra Leone who was just a child when captured by rebels reports that she was 5 years old when rebels attacked and killed her parents. She was made one of the wives of the commander. “He sleeps with me anytime he likes. Then he gave me a gun to shoot a pregnant women. I refused, then he shot me in the right foot.They went on to shoot the pregnant women to settle an argument”, so Hawa.http://www.plan.org.au/mediacentre/publications/research/because_i_am_a_girl_2008_in_th
More than a decade on, she has struggled to pull her life together and is now in secondary school, living in safety with her Uncle and feeling positive about the future.