Girls

Guaranteeing girls’ access to DDR programmes is a major challenge. Like women, girls are generally ‘invisible’ and neglected, both by members of armed forces and groups and by DDR planners and programme staff. Members of armed forces and groups are often reluctant to give up their girl captives, who may be serving them as forced wives and domestic servants, among the wide variety of combat and non-combat roles played by girls. DDR personnel should always assume that girls are present in armed forces and groups, even if they are not visible. In many circumstances, girls do not know about, or may not wish to come forward for DDR, because of shame or fear of being punished. Thus, DDR programmes must be designed to ensure appropriate screening of combatants and dependents with a view to identifying girls associated with armed forces or groups in a way that minimizes shame and stigma and maximizes their security.

During reintegration, girls often face particular challenges in being accepted back into their families and communities, with girl mothers and their children experiencing the highest levels of rejection and abuse upon return. Therefore, families and communities should be sensitized about the vulnerabilities of girls, girl mothers and their children and should be encouraged and assisted to protect and support them. Mediation may be required. Community-based reintegration approaches are also of particular importance when considering the needs of girls, as they significantly reduce the rate of stigmatization or reprisals.