“I feel useful in society”

UNICEF helps children previously associated with armed forces or groups to build the foundation for their future.

Sylvie Lovwa (translated from French by Ariane Apodaca)
Alice en train de coudre
10 July 2020

“I was 14 years old when my parents and my big brother were killed in my presence,” says Alice* sitting behind her sewing machine. The teenager seems calm and serene today, but that wasn’t always the case. “I joined the militia movement to avenge my parents,” says Alice.

Thousands of children have been recruited and used by militias in the Kasai region to fight and kill or to serve as human shield. “A child’s place is with their family or at school and not in the bush,” concludes Alice, looking back on this painful and violent journey.

Since leaving the militia, Alice has lived with her grandmother who does everything she can to take care of her with the little means she has. In order to give her hope and encourage her reintegration, Alice underwent cutting and sewing training supported by UNICEF. “I never went to school,” admits Alice, for whom the professional path was obvious.

“For 6 months, I followed the training and today I just received my certificate,” says Alice proudly. With the materials donated by UNICEF at the end of her training, Alice plans to open a sewing workshop that will allow her to take care of her little brothers and sisters. Her first priority is to send them to school so that they can hope for a better future.

Yannick travaille dans un atelier de menuiserie

Yannick* has chosen another voice so as not to look back: carpentry. When violence broke out in his village, Yannick had been out of school for many years and had no great hopes for his future. Thinking he could build a better life, Yannick joined the militia and took up arms.

After long months in the militia, Yannick saw no change in his life; on the contrary. “I was scared by the death of my two brothers, who became militiamen like me,” confesses Yannick, who saw them die before his eyes.

When he returned home, the young boy was stigmatized by the residents of his neighborhood and the children refused to go near him. In order to facilitate his reintegration, UNICEF offered the young boy to undertake a professional training. “My greatest joy is to see myself today with a job that makes me valuable to society”, explains Yannick.

“Today I understand that I wasted my time in the militia,” concludes Yannick who proudly holds his wood saw in his hands. Thanks to the tools received at the end of the training, Yannick hopes to be able to set up a small workshop that will allow him to help his family.

With the support avec the Governement of Sweden, more than 600 children previously associated with armed forces or groups in the Kasai province participated in accelerated training courses in cutting and sewing, carpentry and masonry, to facilitate their socio-professional reintegration.