Reintegration is the process through which children formerly associated with armed forces/groups are supported to return to civilian life and play a valued role in their families and communities.

The issue

Children released from military exploitation are typically very vulnerable. Many children re-join an armed group after being rejected by their communities and families upon return home. Girls in particular face strong stigmatisation since they are often perceived as having lost their social ‘value’ due to their association with an armed group, and their actual or imputed sexual relations with a man outside of marriage.

Being accepted by one's family and community is the most important factor in the successful reintegration of children. To achieve this, children need to participate in positive community activities giving them a valued social role, which will enhance their recovery and well-being. However, funding for this is vastly inadequate and the available reintegration programmes are often rudimentary, which means many children are let down by the process.

Our impact

Child Soldiers International is working with local organisations to develop realistic reintegration projects tailored to the experiences, values and resources of children and their communities. This work is being piloted in Democratic Republic of Congo, where communities are supported to offer literacy and numeracy classes for girls released from armed groups (and for other vulnerable girls), and to welcome them in youth clubs and other social activities.

What can be done?

We also advocate strongly for child protection agencies to increase the quantity and quality of reintegration programmes. The UN, governments and other non-governmental organisations should develop effective reintegration programmes based on working with the host communities. For this, they need to consult children and communities as much as possible, and develop small-scale, well-adapted initiatives with sufficient long-term funding.

Further reading

Read more about reintegration and The Paris Principles.

Photo © Kiana Hayeri/Child Soldiers International