The long-term impacts of war in conflict affected areas can have seemingly ever-lasting effects that are passed down from generation to generation. Families are uprooted from their homes, customs, social norms, livelihood and sense of security. Though societies can recover from war and conflict, regain and rebuild as a whole, there are still underlying disturbances that exist for those caught in the crossfire so to speak.
Historically, rape is used as a weapon of war in order to instill power and control of one group over another. Regardless of the efforts that have been made over the last few decades gender-based violence still persists and remains a threat to women and girls. Rape, sexual slavery, domestic violence, kidnapping, forced marriages, trafficking and forced prostitution, or any threat based on the female gender can all be experienced at the hands of military enforcement, rebel militias, government officials, and community members. Even trusted peacekeepers who have been sent to the conflict area to protect civilians have been known to use their power to their advantage and committed acts of gender-based violence against women and girls.
Women and children as we know it are the most vulnerable populations who are deeply impacted by threats of war and gender based violence. Even more so are children at risk as they are unable to defend and protect themselves against atrocities and do not have the ability to be their own advocates especially when war is among them. Communities are forced to migrate during times of war and lead to unstable environments where it becomes even more of a challenge to access education or a safe place to play, grow, and develop. Once war is over children still remain at a disadvantage of the consequences of the conflict as they have missed out on education opportunities, health care, and not to mention the massive trauma that can have a multitude of irreversible damage on the basic human development of a child. These children may never recover wholly to be able to live to their fullest potential and be at risk of remaining in poverty which becomes generational.
Children living in conflict areas are less likely to be attending school. In 2011, an estimated 28 million children were unable to attend school in war zones. Enrollment rates in secondary school are nearly one-third lower in conflict-affected countries compared with other developing countries, and far lower for girls. Girls face a variety of challenges during times of war and conflict. It is well known that girls are already at a disadvantage of never acquiring an education with roughly 60 million who are currently out of or have no access to primary school. Even in times of peace are girls less likely to attend school than their male counterpart. Geographic location reinforces gender disparities in education as girls living in rural villages are less likely to attend school than girls in urban cities. In areas where it is a challenge for a girl to access education having the added factor of the presence of war would greatly bring down the likelihood that girls would attend school in rural villages.
The United Nations has taken great measures to acknowledge that there are existing inequalities between men and women especially during times of war. Because of this, a road has been paved that recognizes violence against women and girls is a crime. Women’s rights have been deemed human rights which entitles women the same respects, security, and access to resources as men. These declarations have made it possible for the international community to raise awareness for women and girls.
16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is one of those campaigns that seeks to raise awareness of violence against women worldwide. With the current state of civil wars around the world, we must continue to raise awareness and build presence in order to ensure safe futures for women and girls worldwide. Let us continue to educate one another about how war impacts the lives of women, girls, and children around the world.
Photo Credit: Joshua Kraemer – Children & Youth Strategy – Canada