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Child soldiers: the solution to winning a war?

It is when a simple smile, pure innocence and freedom are taken away from a child that their ability to continue to live an ordinary life is truly impacted.

Before the age of 18, children are stolen from their families only to be whipped, beaten and raped. What is more frightening is the fact that these children are easily manipulated only to be transformed into obedient soldiers. All of this leads to severe consequences for the children who make it back alive, and yet the world remains silent.

Child soldiers who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following their experiences are too afraid to do anything about it for fear of being both ignored and criticised. They are taken away from their families and are immediately handed a gun. Yet, the world is glued to their phones scrolling past through an article about a child who murdered his parents because they were disobedient. Why? When it comes to irrelevant issues like ‘Kim Kardashian arrives in London’, social media and news sites are bursting with pictures of her walking down the street.

We act like we care, but do we really? The truth is, we don’t. Society has truly turned their backs on the problem; not even acknowledging it as an issue.

View this post on Instagram

The Ishy shala supports children caught up in war torn countries of the world... as we make peace in our inner worlds so we help support peace in our outer worlds ✋??#peaceoneday #meditationstation #Repost @warchilduk Today is #RedHandDay, also known as the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers. No-one knows exactly how many Child soldiers there are in the world, but estimates are in the tens of thousands. There’s also a lot of confusion over why children join armed groups, so to change this, we share the experiences of former child soldiers that we’ve worked with. Empowering them to tell their own story in their own words breaks down stereotypes and stigmas. This year we’ve told Frederique’s story (not pictured) through the means of an impactful graphic novel. You can find this on our Twitter. It’s also an important time of year because we get to tell these stories to some of the world’s biggest music artists and their fans via #BRITsWeek with @o2music. In some of the UK’s most intimate venues, musicians of every genre take to the stage to support our work with children just like Frederique. To every #BRITsWeek gig-goer, you are helping us empower child soldiers and children affected by war to build brighter futures. Thank you ? #britsweek #redhandday #redhandday2019 #redhanddaycampaign #childsoldiers

A post shared by Adventures In Wonderland (@ishy.janekersel) on

Both girls and boys are used as child soldiers. Many are forced into combat on the front lines, sent into minefields with older troops or to act as spies. While girls are raped or brought by leaders to be their ‘wives’ only to be thrown away after the captain is finished with them. Is this the world we want to grow up in? Where baby soldiers are forced to witness—or worse yet commit—abuses and killings, meaning they can never return to their communities? Why is nothing being done to combat this issue? Why is one part of the world silent while the other is suffering?

If we benefit from the war, we do not care about the impact it causes on the opposite party regardless of where the war is taking place. Child soldiers are afraid to escape for fear of being shot by the commander. Despite media attention, the response for help has been very limited for these children. It is necessary to have protection and security for them so that they are safe. No child should be part of war but unfortunately, they are forced to experience the terror of losing their loved ones and themselves.

For many soldiers, carrying out violent acts against other fighters or civilians is an inescapable part of their experience that can haunt them for the rest of their lives. They are still human, yet they find it extremely difficult to live a normal life. They are rejected by friends, family and community members for the acts they have committed, yet are called 'cowards' if they do not perform their duty. If nothing is being done to support them, growing up in a world of war and violence can compel them to turn to a life of crime.

And it has happened with many ex-soldiers. According to ‘The Guardian’, former soldier Robert Kilgour was diagnosed with PTSD and feared for the life of his family and himself. Kilgour would “frequently get into fights” and said that he is “disgusted with some of the things he has done.” So, does PTSD lead to violence? Well in the case of Danny Fitzsimons, yes it does. Fitzsimons served “nine months in prison for assault” after he was convicted for firing a flare gun over the “heads of teenagers climbing on his roof and was charged with a racist assault.” He is labelled as a criminal, but is this a cry for help?

Yes, it is. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a harmful illness, but it should not be ignored. It is a war inside the innocent and they are losing the battle. People suffering from any sort of mental health should not be treated as outcasts. Rather, they should be helped and looked after. Therefore, as human beings, we should help each other to conquer this beast instead of ignoring it. No child should grow up facing the consequences of war and be forced to watch their future die at their own hands.

Rather than talking about change, let us make the change.