The Civil War in Sierra Leone started in 1991 and lasted for 11 years, taking the lives of over 50,000 people, forcing hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and leaving thousands of people with permanent injuries. One of the big casualties of this war were the children of Sierra Leone with thousands kidnapped from their homes by rebel forces who forced them to join their fight – 30% of these children were girls (between 10,000 and 20,000 girls aged between 8 and 18).
The girls that were taken from their homes and separated from their families initially were treated the same as the boys that were taken. The rebels needed to increase their numbers and they didn‚Äôt care whether a person was male or female. As the conflict went on however, they began to target young girls as they needed people to carry out day-to-day chores such as bringing water, cooking and cleaning. These girls were also¬†trained by the rebels in how to use firearms and were forced to shoot and kill people during the war. The girl soldiers also had suffered sexual abuse at the hands of the rebels for the duration of the Civil War.
When the Civil War ended in 2002, the suffering of the girls, now women, did not end. Many were not welcomed back by their families as they were viewed as having betrayed them by being with the rebels for so long. The girls that had been raped were also viewed as having brought shame to their family name.
Now, 14 years after the end of the Civil War many people in Sierra Leone have healed. With time, families have reconnected and the girl soldiers who were taken by the rebels have managed to rebuild their lives. This road has not been easy and it required the help of groups such as Amnesty International and UNICEF.
For a look at the stories of 8 women who were girl soldiers during the war, watch Jonathan Torgovnik’s short film,¬†Girl Soldier, here.
Girl Museum Inc.