Girls learn about tailoring at the UNICEF-supported training centre. © UNICEF/UN09634/Rich
Like boys, girls are equally vulnerable, if not more in the face of armed conflicts. Out of the 100 trainees at this centre, 30 are girls who were once recruited by armed groups or at risk of being recruited.
One of the most devastating consequences of Somalia’s civil war, which has lasted more than two decades and is still raging, is the violent, abusive and exploitative treatment of children. UNICEF estimates that there could be 5,000 children and youth currently within the ranks of various armed groups. The situation is particularly dire in the Central and South regions.
“I joined the Al-Shabaab because I was still a child – I was too young to make decisions,” says Ali, another trainee enrolled in the vocational training courses. With funding from the European Commission, UNICEF is able to support these children and help local authorities, NGOs, civil society and communities protect those who are at risk and provide reintegration support to those who want to start a new life.
Only empowering ourselves through education can give us a good life.”
When they graduate, each of the trainees will receive a startup kit, and be given continued support in the reintegration process. Meaningful support like vocational training is key to protect children and youth from the preying eyes of the militias, and keep them within their families and communities.
Both Abdi and Ali are determined not to go back to the military.
“It is very stressful to be with those groups,” said Ali. “For those who are thinking of joining, I would ask them to think again. It will not give you a good life. Only empowering ourselves through education can give us a good life.
Never join the groups. It will only lead you to death.”