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>> 85 5 Securitization and Desecuritization Female Soldiers and the Reconstruction of Women We didn’t have many girls [at the reintegration center]. I don’t know what happened to the ex-combatant girls and ladies. Amongst the group that was brought to us, the [number of] girls [was] not even ten. Some of the most vicious soldiers and commanders were women. I’m still wondering what happened to the ex-combatant ladies and girls because the number that showed up [was] too small, which means that we have lots and lots of these women and girls that are not reintegrated.1 Saphie was conscripted by the AFRC/RUF at the age of fourteen. Her roles during the conflict included fighting, gun trafficking, acting as a “bush wife,” and acting as a spy. Saphie explained why she did not go through the DDR in the following way: “I was excluded by my commander as they took my gun from me—the symbol to guarantee me to be part of the reintegration program.” She heard that the program was useful and was especially envious of the $300 disarmament payment .2 Saphie also heard that ex-combatants were reunited with their parents and were given medical attention and clothing. For Saphie, the strengths of the program included the huge amount of international support; however, she felt that the program did not fulfill its promises to ex-combatants. She felt that female soldiers were deceived and were not given sufficient information about the program. She asserted that “girl soldiers were part of the ‘real’ people that mattered to the program.” She also felt that most reintegration initiatives ended prematurely and heard about embezzlement of program funds by officials. Saphie reported that she finds her current situation frustrating as she is “just trying to survive” despite poverty. Lene Hansen proposes that “a critical discourse might start by challenging the key representations of identity that underpin the policy in question.”3 This chapter investigates the gendered assumptions that underpin policy makers’ responses to the question “Why did so few women and girls participate in the 86 > 87 were not “real” soldiers. As mentioned in chapter 3, women and girls soldiers were often classified as camp followers, abductees, unaccompanied children, women associated with the fighting forces, or sex slaves. As a result, the low numbers of girls and women who participated in the DDR are seen as an accurate reflection of the numbers of females who were “actually” soldiers— the presumption being that other women who were with the rebels acted in support roles or were generally victims coerced into a male-dominated war. Another justification given to explain the low numbers of women in the DDR was that women and girls were simply overlooked. In particular, women and girls who did not go through the DDR have been portrayed as victims left behind and neglected by the local and international community. For example, the UNICEF report on the lessons learned from the DDR cites the consideration of gender and the inclusion of girls as a major shortcoming of the programming. In fact, one of the major programs initiated in response to criticisms about the inclusion of girls and women in the DDR was called Girls Left Behind. According to UNICEF, this program was created to target “young girls and women who were either still living with their captors or who had been abducted (before the age of 18) and had been released or escaped.”8 The program was designed to be a short-term, intensive intervention “for abducted girls and young women to ensure their protection and reintegration and to offer them basic education and skills training.”9 Eligibility for this program required victimhood. Many women and girls were abducted during the war, but some also joined willingly. Furthermore, women and girls were victimized during the war, but, as my interviews show, many also gained a significant amount of power and authority as a result of their combat roles. Creating a program for abducted girls “left behind” is exclusive and perpetuates gender stereotypes about women and girls as the “ideal” victims in war. Assuming women and girl soldiers were “left behind” also denies any agency on the part of females during the war and implies that the DDR problem with women and girls was one of inclusion, not program design or gender awareness. There is an assumption that women and girls were either victims caught up in the fray of a male-dominated conflict or were...


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