Statement of intent: The purpose of my writing is to develop an overall understanding of the issues surrounding child soldiers, and how New Zealand’s differing society can help guide these corrupted nations towards a more balanced and non-violent existence. I would like to show how war was something New Zealand went through, and how it isn’t an environment children should grow up in. War was something that helped shape our identity, but it is also one of the worst parts of our history. If we can take this knowledge and experience from our own participation of the war, we can use it towards helping to stop young child in foreign countries from having to face the same fate. The issue of child soldiers needs to end. The style I aim to use with this piece of writing is formal and persuasive, and the text type will be a research essay/report. My writing is aimed at teenagers, to help them understand how different the lives of the unfortunate are compared to our own. I want them to gain a better understanding of the issues surrounding child soldiers, including the environments they grow up in, the increases in numbers of child soldiers, and how different their lives are to ours. They need to understand the links between New Zealand’s participation in the war, and how similar the experiences of the soldiers who fought there would be to the child soldiers of today. I intend to engage my audience through the use of language features and by relating to today’s society. Using these techniques will allow them to relate it to their own experiences and gain a more in-depth understanding of what I’m going to discuss.
“Children belong on playgrounds, not battlegrounds. The use of child soldiers is one of the most egregious human right violations of our times”
As we grow up, it is common for children to wonder what life would be like for other people. They’re curious people who are fascinated by the simplest of things, and amused by anything. As a child, I, personally, was intrigued by the lives of children less fortunate than myself. In my unimpeachable curiosity, I came across the story of a young boy named Charles. Charles is a 15 year old boy who was born in Uganda. He was from a poor family, that lived in a poor part of town, and had always lived with a poor quality of life. As a result of this unfortunate circumstance, Charles was taken, and forced into child slavery. The reason why he was taken, was because the recruiters of active guerrilla rebel groups knew that if a poor child from the poorer areas of Uganda were to be taken, it was unlikely that the child would be searched for. They therefore decided that the value of the lives of poor children from Uganda were worth less than those from wealthier backgrounds. However, does the wealth of a person define their worth? Or is every person equal? Equality is a common idea in today’s society, if someone believes in a different religion to you, you should still treat them equally. There are people fighting for gay rights to bring equality, and the black-equality movements are ever progressing. If all people truly are equal, then why should our lives be more valuable and precious than a poor African boy’s?
The issue of child soldiers dates back for hundreds of years. It should be ancient history by now, it needs to end. Children should be playing “catch the villain”, not kill the villain. Even the most basic of human rights should be preventing this obvious breech of children’s safety. However, the numbers of soldiers are ever increasing, and the environments in which these children grow up in are far from ideal. Charles explained that the conditions he was forced into surviving in were far from ideal. Being denied access to food, water, or other basic human rights was a common occurrence for him and the other children. In New Zealand, we have been privileged with a wonderful way of life that is almost the complete opposite of the lives given to child soldiers. These privileges ensure a far safer and happier childhood for kiwi children than these soldiers, simply because because of the environment they were lucky enough to grow up in. To put it into context, if a child was born in New Zealand, to a family who were not as well off as you, to a family who struggled to put dinner on the table each night, would you sit back and allow the child to be forced into slavery? To allow the child to be forced in to a rebel group designed to destroy what little governmental structure there was, a topic that they would have very little knowledge on? Would you let any child of New Zealand be taken unwillingly from their homes, to be forced into murdering other children from a similar position? No. You wouldn’t. Why not? Because that child could be your own, because that child could be your niece, or nephew, because that child could have grown into an influential and integral part of New Zealand’s future development, because our country isn’t in a situation where that kind of action would ever need to be taken. So if you wouldn’t let a child of New Zealand be forced to murder, why would you let a child of any other nation? Is it because they don’t live here? You don’t know the child affected? In fact, it’s unlikely that you would know anyone affected by such a corrupted government system. You think, “why should I care, this has nothing to do with me”. Maybe not, but if that was your child getting abducted and forced into cold blooded murder, would you want people to help? If you knew that there were people who could save your child, would you want them to? However, for many people, the reason they don’t get involved, don’t try to help these children is because they don’t know how. But it is not a time to wait for everyone else to find a way of fixing this evident problem, it’s a time for you to. There are ways in which we can, and need to help. For example, promoting awareness of these issues, before child soldiers become an act of normality. New Zealander’s were participants in the world wars, and understand the horrific circumstances of which it can put a society into. War was something that helped shape our identity, but it is also one of the worst parts of our history. If we can take this knowledge and experience from our own participation of the war, we can use it to help stop young children in foreign countries from having to face the same fate. The main issues surrounding the issue of child soldiers are the growth in the numbers of children growing up in armed conflict, the increase in child soldiers, and the massive differences between the societies they live in, compared to those of teenagers living in safer environments, such as our own. Just by telling others about what’s happening in countries like Uganda, you can save the lives of children like Charles.
The increase of children growing up in armed conflict is becoming a mounting problem in which greatly affects the individual lives they lead. It results in a decrease of the levels of education these children are getting, and highlights issues around the safety of children in refugee camps. If children are growing up in armed conflict, chances are that the levels of education they’re receiving are low. Before Charles became a soldier, he explained that the education he’d had was minimal, but was a far more positive and productive use of his time. When the children are taken, they are told that once they have killed someone, they can no longer go back and lead normal lives with their families. This consequence is horrific for young children to be facing. If you were taken away and told that the only way to survive was to kill or be killed, how would you react? If you were then told that if you were to kill anyone, you can never go home and live as you had previously, what would you do? If you were told that if you so much as tried to escape, you would be killed, what would you say? In New Zealand, we are privileged with good education, and therefore it is often hard to understand the daily struggles in which these kids go through to access education. “If countries continue to employ four times as many soldiers as teachers, education and social systems will remain fragile and inadequate, and Governments will continue to fail children and break the promises made to them through ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child”. This quote depicts the errors in which many failing governments are making, and illustrates how the need for teachers is far greater than the need for soldiers. Education is a far more useful weapon than guns and explosives, and the education of children will see a more substantial change in the structures of the country than soldiers and war. Although it is less common for governments to force children into slave soldiers, the size of the armies and defence forces corrupted governments are crafting calls for the immediate attention of rebel guerrilla groups who will force and abduct children to join their side. Another issue that is produced from children growing up in armed conflict is how they often feel excluded from mainstream society, and eventually turn to war. “The children most likely to become soldiers are from impoverished and marginalized backgrounds or separated from their families.” This quote explains how most child soldiers often come from backgrounds filled with violence and conflict. They stay in circumstances of which they grew up in, because to them that’s normal. To them, the horrors of war are what they grew up with, and therefore continue that into their adult lives. In New Zealand, the soldiers that went to war were doing it as a heroic act, and as a form of patriotism. They left homes of safety to find danger and adventure. For children in these war ravaged countries, they’re becoming soldiers because they need to leave their homes of danger, to find the safety in which the army will provide. The increase of children growing up in armed conflict is becoming a mounting problem to today’s society. This problem leads into how children in these circumstances don’t get the same access to substantial education, and how those who grow up in violent and war ravaged areas, often are the most likely to become child soldiers. To end the use of child soldiers, these problems need to be fixed.
Increases in child soldiers are another issue that needs to end. This increase is generally caused because the armies and structure of the conflict regimes are often attractive to homeless or less privileged children, because it proposes a means of survival. This also shows flaws in the structures of refugee camps, and how we need to improve the protection of children. “Sometimes, children become soldiers simply in order to survive. Children may join if they believe that this is the only way to guarantee regular meals, clothing or medical attention.” This quote explains how a common reason for children to become soldiers is because it provides a sense of security and survival for them. If a child is faced with the decision between joining an army where they get clothes, food, water, and shelter, or struggling to survive alone around their hometown as their families are already dead, it’s easy to understand why so many choose the former option. The prospects of becoming a child soldier are more attractive to underprivileged children as they often provide a more solid means of survival than simply trying to survive on their own. New Zealand has almost always provided a means of basic levels of safety for all of its inhabitants. To be living in this kind of violent environment is practically unheard of here, but it was once a reality for our ANZAC troops. We have laws in place to uphold the protection of children, and is another reason why we should be standing up for the rights of children in other countries, who are forced to live as child soldiers because it’s the only means of safety and protection they can access. We must stand for them as our rights have already been stood up for. Another issue that’s causing an increase of child soldiers is the little amount of protection provided to children in poorer areas, and refugee camps. “Armed conflict leads to a breakdown in the family support systems so essential to a child’s survival and development. Other forms of protection also slip away, particularly government and community support systems”. This quote explains how when children are growing up in areas of armed conflict, it isn’t uncommon for many of their social structures to fall down as well. This means that the need for child protection is an ever increasing problem for the younger generation, and is something that needs to be improved should any serious action be taken against attempts at decreasing the number of child soldiers that there are. The structures of New Zealand’s society are very strong, and would model well to those in more under developed countries. The only armed conflicts that we have participated in were to support other nations, and the only wars seen on our home ground haven’t been active since the Maori land wars. This shows that children in New Zealand haven’t had to grow up in circumstances like those of child soldiers, and therefore should be something we need to help develop in other countries. We can spread our ‘Kiwi Culture’ across other nations, and be a role model in which other societies can develop to. Increases in child soldiers are a mounting problem that needs to be resolved. When looking at it, two main factors contribute to its increase greatly – how becoming a soldier provides survival for homeless and underprivileged children, and how great increases in the level of protection of children need to be taken. These problems need to be fixed before any real change in the declining of child soldiers will be seen
The differences seen between the societies that we live in compared to those of child soldiers are huge. Two factors that stem from this are how different our “normal” is, and how war should not be stealing children’s futures. “Somebody being shot in front of you, or you yourself shooting somebody became just like drinking a glass of water “. This quote was taken from a young child soldier who grew up with the horrors of war. It is describing how to them, murder and violence is just everyday life, it’s how their day goes and that’s how they live. However to us, the idea of this being any kind of normal is horrifying. Our normal is to go to good schools with good education, live healthy lives, with good families, but to them, that’s more than they could ever dream of. For there to be such different circumstances to live in is almost unbelievable. This leads onto the second point of how war should not be stealing children’s futures. “We don’t want to see another child giving up their dreams and visions about their life for being in harsh circumstances they don’t belong to. War is already a bad circumstance for adults, let alone for innocent children that are supposed to taste the excitement of education. War should not steal a child’s future and for whatever reasons, it will never be justifiable.” This quote depicts how children should not have lives of horror and war, they should be having educated lives with dreams they can achieve. War shouldn’t be taking this opportunity away from them, it’s not right. New Zealand kids get access to almost every opportunity under the sun. We can create any future we like, and we know that we can achieve that from the day we develop these ideas on our future. The differences seen between our society and the societies of child soldiers are far too much. The contrast seen between our “normal” and their “normal” isn’t acceptable, and neither is war stealing a child’s future. These issues need to be resolved before we can start helping and preventing child soldiers effectively.
Child soldiers are not something that should be accepted into today’s society, and need to be something New Zealand helps to abolish. The leading factors to it are how children are already growing up in violent areas of armed conflict, which thereby decreases the levels of education they’re getting, and how children become child soldiers because they’re living in the same circumstances in which they grew up – it give a sense of familiarity. Increasing numbers of child soldiers is also a factor, as well as how it provides a means of survival to homeless and underprivileged children, and how these child soldiers need far better means of protection if we want any hope of decreasing the numbers in which they’re growing. Finally, the differences between our societies are far too big, and the contrasts between our “normal” is far too much. This also went onto the point surrounding how children should not have their chances at good futures taken away by the violence and atrocities of war. War was something New Zealand went through, and how it isn’t an environment children should grow up in. War was something that helped shape our identity, but it is also one of the worst parts of our history. If we can take this knowledge and experience from our own participation of the war, we can use it to help stop young child in foreign countries having to face the same fate. There are far too many problems with the way our society is attempting at rectifying the problems surrounding child soldiers. More needs to be done to take them away from such horrifying situations, and we need to start decreasing the gap between how different our lives are. Children should be playing “catch the villain” not kill the villain. The use of child soldiers needs to stop.
By Dharma Bratley