Creating a venue on the Internet for former child soldiers to share their stories and develop new skills

Launched in 2000, the Child Soldier Project of the International Education and Resource Network in Sierra Leone (iEarn Sierra Leone) has created a web site on which former child soldiers can share their stories. The web site, www.childsoldiers.org, features the essays, poems, artwork and voices of former child soldiers and offers an on­line forum for discussion.

iEarn Sierra Leone visits schools, hospitals and camps, airs radio announcements and publishes newspaper ar­ticles to inform former child soldiers about the project. Participants are tutored in reading and writing, basic word processing and computer skills. They also receive trauma counseling from volunteer nurses and psychiatrists.

When participants become comfortable on a computer they use the web site to share their thoughts and experi­ences. Galleries of former child soldiers’ accounts, drawings and voices have prompted support and solidarity from people around the world. An interactive forum allows participants to discuss and debate with fellow former child soldiers and others. Participants build confidence and learn skills that make it easier for them to create a place for themselves in society. To date, over 200 former child soldiers have participated in the project.

New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.

What we can learn from this tactic: 

New technologies provide an opportunity to build awareness about human rights violations.

This tactic uses the Internet to help a scattered group of victims share their stories and connect with each other, and could be used in other cases where victims of abuse are dispersed or in which targeted minorities (e.g. people with disabilities or gays and lesbians) cannot talk about their experiences as easily in their own commu­nities. The Internet can create a safe space for these people to connect with others who will understand. It is not always possible, however, to guarantee anonymity or security of personal information on the Internet.

This tactic clearly requires an adequate technological infrastructure, but by succeeding in Sierra Leone, a war-ravaged country ranked one of the poorest in the world, iEarn has proven that this obstacle can be overcome.