Girl Soldiers: Challenging the Assumptions

Tuesday, November 5, 2002
Yvonne E. Keairns

War has traditionally been considered as a male preserve, and this remains predominantly true. However, women and girls participate in warfare to a far greater degree than is generally recognised.3 Why do girls participate?4 What leads them to join armed forces or armed groups? Are the reasons they join different from those of boys? Are their roles and experiences in armed forces and armed groups and in warfare the same or
different? How do they experience demobilisation and reintegration into society?

These questions are at last beginning to be addressed, and some preliminary information is now available and hence some tentative policy and programmatic questions can be identified. Particularly interesting are the qualitative research studies which have been undertaken - some focused exclusively on girl soldiers, others broader but including girls.

This short paper will not attempt to present a complete picture, nor to do justice to the findings of The Voices of Girl Child Soldiers research.5 It seeks only to identify some of the key findings which identify new dimensions or add greater specificity to the problem and which raise policy and programmatic issues: this is why it is entitled, "Girl Soldiers: Challenging the Assumptions".

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Girl Soldiers: Challenging the Assumptions, Keairns, 2002