In Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) we support the reintegration of girls coming out of armed groups and back into their families and communities. We also help to prevent the recruitment of children through training and awareness-raising.

The latest conflict in DRC ended in 2013 but the recruitment and use of girls and boys by armed groups continues. And once children try and come home, they face more challenges – girls especially.

In DRC, up to 40% of children in armed groups are girls but very few of them are able to leave the groups. When they do, they rarely get appropriate support to be able to reintegrate back into civilian life.

Our research team spent six weeks in north-eastern DRC in January-February 2016. We spoke with over 150 girls to learn about their situation after leaving an armed group and, once back in their communities, the difficulties they may face, and their need to be accepted by their communities and families.

Marceline*, was captured during the M23 rebellion in North Kivu in 2014 and stayed five months with the armed group before being able to escape. She was then four months pregnant. When she returned to her family they rejected her. Marceline, now 16 years old, was taken in by another family. They treat her well but they are very poor, so she works in the fields to pay for secondary school.

The vast majority of the girls we met wished that they could go back to school. Many were working in the fields trying to pay for their own schooling, but some didn’t make enough money and were being chased out of the schools for failing to pay their fees.

Rose*, 16 years old, from Nyiragongo South, North Kivu said: 'If we could go to school, the community would be nicer to us; we would get some consideration. That would help a lot.'

We also interviewed community members such as religious leaders, teachers and memebrs of Child Protection Community Networks, in order to understand their point of view and what they need to better support these girls.

Child Protection Networks are key players in ensuring the reintegration of girls, but they are volunteers and work with very little means. We wanted to bring something to help their work. Here’s our expert researcher, Marie de la Soudière, handing out wind-up radios that were much appreciated. 

In October this year we will go back to DRC and discuss the research findings and what we call “the girls wishes” with local partners. Together we will develop practical guidance on how to implement them. We will then put this guidance into practice, aiming to improve the lives of girls coming out of armed groups in DRC.

*We have changed the names to protect the identities of these girls and the photos do not portray the girls quoted.