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Rosalie, a former child soldier

In late 2013, fighting broke out in the Central African Republic, killing thousands of people and displacing hundreds of thousands of families. Children are among those who are the most affected during times of crisis. Huge numbers suffered violence, having been torn from their homes and separated from their families or recruited into armed groups. Rosalie, 16, became a child soldier after her father died.

“I was 13 when war came to our village. Self-defense groups were formed so I joined one of them to avenge the death of my father. My brother, two sisters and I all joined the armed group and were convinced that we were doing the right thing.

In the group, the girls were in charge of preparing food and doing laundry for the fighters and leaders. I spent several months in successive groups before we reached the capital Bangui. I did not suffer abuse from the other fighters, because our leader was very strict about that. He threatened to punish anyone who was guilty and everyone was afraid of him.

Arriving in Bangui, we were quartered at our general's home, but our situation became very precarious and it was increasingly difficult to find food.

We were so far away from our home village and felt abandoned in the capital, without any resources or family so I decided to start working as maid for a woman who promised to let me enroll at school.

The woman negotiated with my group leader to release me. He advised me before I left, to be wise and take advantage of this opportunity. I nevertheless continued to meet up with my former fellow combatants.

It was through them that I heard about an organisation that works with Plan International to help rescue child soldiers and set them on a new path. They have taken great care of me and my friends. It was a relief for me to be able to share my experience and anger without being judged.

I am feeling much better now. I took part in sewing training and am now working in a shop as a tailor’s assistant. I want to learn more about this business and one day own my own shop.

Sewing brings me a lot. I hope to one day have many clients and earn enough money to take care of my mother who is still living in the village I left and my siblings who were also abandoned here in the capital and who have not had the same chances.

I advise all girls to stop being manipulated. Armed groups build on our anger but in fact they do not offer anything. Our future is not with armed groups, because they will not win anything after the fighting, except desolation.

We should take care of our parents. Some of us lost our fathers during the crisis and our mothers took care of us. So we must succeed and earning a living to help our mothers.”

Plan International’s conflict recovery programme in CAR is funded by the European Union and implemented in partnership with a local NGO. We are working to identify and protect vulnerable children like Rosalie, providing them with vocational training to help them improve their income and life chances.