Abducted, Rachel became the wife of a militiaman

“I cried every day at the thought that my whole village knew that I had become the wife of a militiaman”

Joëlla Sambo (translated from French by Dorsaf N. James)
Une fille cachant son visage de la main
UNICEF DRC Douglas
15 February 2018

Rachel* was only 11 years old when she had been abducted by an armed group while returning from the field with her parents in a village in South Kivu, East of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Once arrived in the forest, a young militiaman took Rachel as wife. 

“I cried every day and I just wanted to die at the thought that my whole village knew that I had become the wife of a militiaman”

After two years, Rachel had a child and lost all desire to return to her village. “I was afraid of becoming the laughing stock of my friends and being rejected by my family so I resigned myself to assume, in silence, my responsibility as mother and wife.”

Rachel's life in the forest consisted of moving with the movement of the armed group, taking care of her family and listening to the radio. One night, a program on children’s rights caught her attention. It talked about children associated with armed groups and their reintegration into society. That night, Rachel became aware of her situation and realized that her future was not lost.

“I had to leave the armed group as soon as possible”, Rachel recalls. In October 2017, taking advantage of her second pregnancy, Rachel asked to travel a few kilometers to attend a prenatal consultation. With the permission of her husband, Rachel left the camp knowing that she would never come back.

Instead of going to the health center, the young mom went to a base of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO) where a UNICEF partner organization took care of her with the the support of the Government of Japan. Rachel was placed in a foster family and, three months later, she was reunited with her biological family. “It is with joy that I have been welcomed back at home and in my community”, said Rachel with a big smile. 

Now 17 years old and a mother of two, Rachel is learning to live in her community again. "I am farming to provide for my two children," concludes the girl after spending six years in the armed group.