Transformative Spaces in the Social Reintegration of Former Child Soldier Young Mothers in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Northern Uganda

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Abstract

A significant but insufficiently considered category of female former child soldiers is those that become mothers as a result of rape or through relationships with “bush husbands”. This article reflects on learning from a participatory action research (PAR) study which aimed to facilitate the social reintegration of formerly associated young mothers and other war-affected vulnerable young mothers in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and northern Uganda. We argue that it is useful to delineate 3 nodes of individual-community relations which we identify as possible transformative spaces in psychosocial programming for social reintegration: the intersection between individual emotional experience and the emotional climate, between individual agency and public engagement, and between individual and community resilience. The PAR study involved 658 young war-affected mothers across 20 communities in the 3 countries. The results demonstrate how the PAR mobilized positive emotions and aligned the activities of the young mothers’ groups with individuals with power to facilitate change (community leaders) and contributed to limited transformative change. Further research is needed on engaging men and on tackling structural factors in interventions with war-affected young mothers.

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