Gender and stigmatization in post conflict reintegration of formerly abducted children in Northern Uganda: a case of Greater Lira District
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The two decade protracted Lord Resistance Army(LRA) conflict in Northern Uganda was characterized by abduction, killings and displacement of the population in the region in Internally Displaced Persons(IDPs) camps. In 2006, government of Uganda and the LRA entered into a peace negotiation deals to end the conflict in Juba, South Sudan. As a result, peace deal was agreed upon and ultimately there was cessation of hostilities that saw the LRA retreat their rebels from Northern Uganda into Garamba. The research therefore sought to examine the gendered nature of stigmatization of Formerly Abducted Children(FAC) during reintegration in Northern Uganda. Study findings revealed that FAC faced stigma and rejection from the communities. Their experiences are different for boys and girls. For boys it is the labels and for girls in addition to the labels experience naming as kony’s wives and child mothers (for the children who returned with children born in captivity hence double stigma). In addition, communities view them as girls who are no suitable for marriage because they have been “used as sex slaves, dirty and it is assumed they are sick”. This negatively impacts on their socialization. Stigma is manifested through labels and naming such as; adui(rebel), otong-tong, anek(killer), returnee. When it came to access to resources and opportunities such as education and access to land, the boys had more chances given the patriarchal nature of the society where boys are favoured. In addition, Community perception has been mixed with acceptance versus rejection. This is experienced differently by the children, those with parents and those without. Girls (Child mothers) faced rejection from their families and communities because of the identity of the children whom they returned with whose fathers are unknown to their parents and therefore assumed to be carrying bad blood of killers as it was commonly referred to during the interviews. these kinds of stigma, rejection and negative perception of communities’ on FAC forced some of the children to flee their homes/villages to towns and trading centres forming a constituency of “Otino corridor” “aguu” street children who have become a security threat in the region. These children lack identity because they were rejected by their maternal relatives.