- Grace, Milly, Lucy . . . Child Soldiers
This documentary film highlights the story of three women—Grace, Milly, and Lucy—who were abducted as children and forced to become soldiers in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group in Uganda. Their stories are [End Page 178] three of over 30,000 cases of children who have been forced to become soldiers, 30 percent of whom are girls. The women share similar stories of being forced to kill and pillage, of nonconsensual sexual relationships with their male commanders, and of lost innocence during their time living “in the bush.” Their experiences in the LRA lay open the challenges to the reintegration of the women into society, the film’s main focus.
Among the three women, Lucy is depicted as the one experiencing the most difficulty with the reintegration process. Abducted at age 9 and held captive for ten years, Lucy returned to society as a mother. Although welcomed back by her own mother, Lucy and her children became outcasts in the community because of their connection to the LRA. Her children could not make friends, and people in the community thought that she was possessed by evil spirits and prone to violence. Lucy contemplated returning to the LRA because she found the reintegration process difficult. She is now seeking help from Empowering Hands, a nonprofit organization helping to rehabilitate former child soldiers, as well as from regular sessions with a “witch doctor” to dispel the evil spirits within her. The film depicts Lucy as someone whose violent childhood experiences are particularly difficult to leave behind.
Like Lucy, Milly was also abducted at age 9 and spent ten years with the LRA. She and Lucy shared the same “husband”—along with twenty-seven other women. Compared to Lucy, Milly has reintegrated relatively well. She has married a man who is willing to overlook her past, but the film portrays the difficulties the couple continues to face from relatives and community members, and these problems also extend to Milly’s children who were conceived during her time with the LRA. For example, her daughter, aptly named “Peace,” has been physically abused by Milly’s current mother-in-law and is sent to live with Milly’s mother. With counseling from Empowering Hands, Milly has learned to cope with the community’s harassment; she explains that “even if someone abuses me or my children, I won’t retaliate. I’ve taught my children the same thing. Being abused won’t make them any less human than other people.” The depictions of Lucy and Milly demonstrate the burden that former female child soldiers face from their families and communities who often blame them for their captivity and for bearing the children of LRA members. Their time in the army marks them as outcasts in the community and hinders their future prospects. Yet in the face of such insensitivity Milly demonstrates profound poise, and her above statements show her determination to break the cycle of abuse.
Among the three women in the film, Grace is presented as the most able to cope with her childhood experiences in the army, and to use those negative experiences to foster social change. After running away from her captors, she was determined to finish her schooling. She won a scholarship to study in the United States, where she continues to work to bring attention to the plight of children affected by war. Unlike Lucy and Milly, Grace found an interested and sympathetic audience for her past travails within the university and professional [End Page 179] communities, and she has been able to utilize her past experiences as a platform upon which to raise awareness and to help children in situations similar to her own. While the film does not delve into specifics about the role of education in the reintegration process of former child soldiers, Grace’s case shows that schooling may offer opportunities for former child soldiers to interact with colleagues who are less judgmental about their LRA experiences.
These three compelling cases allow filmmaker Raymonde Provencher to accomplish what he set...