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>> 137 8 Conclusion Displacing War Mythology and Developmental Logic This book began with reference to an image of a young male holding an AK-47. The young man was discussed as symbolic of oversimplified characterizations of chaotic, irrational, and male-driven civil wars in Africa. Perhaps it is fitting now to think about what—if any—iconic images of African women exist. A quick online image search using any combination of “Africa,” “war,” and “women” will inevitably produce a barrage of pictures of female victims or peacemakers. It is apparent that images of women are primarily used to represent the aftermath of civil war or the devastating effect of war on civilian populations. Two photos are particularly prominent. The first, which shows a half-naked young Sierra Leonean woman sitting propped up on one arm with her legs stretched out and her breasts exposed, was used as part of a campaign to raise awareness about sexual violence across the globe by Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), a service of the UN for the coordination of humanitarian affairs. The IRIN campaign, entitled “Broken Bodies Broken Dreams,” featured images from victims of sexual violence that were published and shown in exhibitions in New York, Geneva, and Nairobi.1 A second image used frequently to represent the civil war in Sierra Leone is of a young woman with either one or both of her limbs amputated. There are multiple versions of this picture used by a variety of actors, from online journals,2 to university research centers,3 to foreign policy blogs.4 Both of these representations of women have typically been employed to raise awareness about the ways that civilians were impacted and victimized by the civil war. Furthermore, they signal that women’s bodies are stained with the legacies of the conflict. The reproduction of these images is one of the political choices that serve to reconstruct women in a distinct ways postconflict . Instead of images of women participating in the conflict, or of former female soldiers graduating from skills training programs or returning to school, or representations of the multiple ways women managed to work and survive in the post-conflict environment, these two images of victimized females dominate. 138 > 139 and stories should not be categorized as either confirming warfare mythologies and expectations or constituting irrelevant exceptions. War impacts individuals in complex and variable ways. Listening to these multifaceted experiences helps to disrupt dominant—and often oversimplified—narratives of warfare. Furthermore, listening to individual stories assists in dispelling the representation of warfare as an “event” and the postwar period as a staged process . Often war is depicted as if it is a black box of time and space characterized by chaos, violence, unpredictability, and exceptionality, while—in contrast—the postwar moment is seen as a sterile and phased process that can be predictably managed. Post-conflict has almost become understood as a sort of formula: peace accord + disarmament + transitional justice = healing, forgiveness, and harmony. What is missing from this equation are individual experiences. A young woman from Makeni raising a baby born as a result of rape will presumably experience “post-conflict” differently than an orphaned child in Freetown or an HIV-positive teenager from Bo. Recovery, healing, acceptance, and reintegration are personal experiences that cannot be systematized. When I visited Sierra Leone at the end of 2005, I was certainly given the impression that the international donor community had decided that “the postwar” period was over for Sierra Leone. The reintegration phase of the DDR had long since been finalized for adults, with the children’s process ending in December 2005. These programs were ending not because local organizations had declared the reintegration process complete and a success but because donor funding had effectively dried up. In fact, several social workers and community members expressed their concern to me about the abrupt end to the reintegration process. Some told stories of young soldiers whose school fees would cease to be covered; others mentioned the numerous soldiers who had not been included in DDR processes and were unemployed and desperate. Of the few centers that were offering skills training for female soldiers , the majority were either in the process of ending their programs or struggling to raise money to continue their efforts. On a sweltering day in December I attended a graduation for a class of former female soldiers who had been trained as tailors. In previous years each graduate would receive a sewing machine and a start-up...


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