Global Fellows Meet in Kenya

By Geoffrey Waringa, Goldin Global Fellow, Kenya

On Feb 3rd, 4th and 5th, GATHER global alumni from Uganda Miss Diana Alaroker and Geoffrey Omony of Youth Leaders for Restoration and Development (YOLRED), the first organization designed and run by former child soldiers, attended an Anti-Slavery Knowledge Network workshop in Nairobi, Kenya.

During the workshop, they made time to link up with me, GATHER Global alumni from Kenya Mr. Jeff Waringa, and it was a very joyful meet-up for people who have virtually know each other for more than a year but never met physically.

The three of us had very fruitful discussions centered on the possibility of working together on a regional scale. We noted the challenges of real time communication with all GATHER fellows from the East African region due to engagements and access to online communications amongst them. However, we made a commitment to start the conversation and get something going that the rest of the East African fellows could join later.

They made arrangements for a further meeting the next day which was the Ugandans’ day of departing. They made time to meet in between other meetings and on the ride to the airport. On the last day, they visited Goldin institute’s partners Arigatou Kenya offices in Nairobi, where they also had very pleasant discussions with Dr. Dorcas Kiplagat about the YOLRED projects in Uganda. Dorcas and I also had a pleasant meeting, and I updated her on my work in Kenya and the challenges I’m facing in combating the wave of violent extremist radicalization on the Kenyan coast.

The meetings ended well and commitments were made to remain in constant communication towards further collaborations.

Alone and Frightened: A Summary of our Report

alone headerIn the discussions about disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of children used as soldiers in the conflict in Northern Uganda, the voices and perspectives of former child soldiers themselves have too often and too long been ignored.

To restore these voices to the discussion and to improve the services for former combatants, the Goldin Institute and local partners trained a group of former child soldiers in "Community Based Oral Testimony" as a tool for gathering these stories and perspectives. Through this project, former child soldiers themselves led the research collection through interviewing over 150 of their peers and together reflecting on common concerns and shared aspirations.

The results of this groundbreaking research are contained in the report, Alone and Frightened. Equipped with this knowledge and the sense of solidarity developed through the research process, the former child soldiers are now at the forefront of convening the National Platform for Child Soldier Reintegration in Uganda as a network for coordinating the work of NGOs, government agencies, religious communities and other partners who are working together to promote reconciliation and reintegration.


[quote]Child Soldier definition: A child soldier is one under the age of 18 and part of a regular or irregular armed force or armed group participation directly indirectly. Child soldiers perform a range of tasks including combat, laying mines, and explosives; scouting, spying, acting as decoys, couriers or guards; training, drill or other preparations; logistics and support functions, pottering, cooking and domestic labor; and sexual slavery or other recruitment for sexual purposes."[/quote]

- UNICEF 2003


Former Child Soldiers Receive Certificates in ESPERE Reconciliation TrainingThis study describes the state of children affected by the brutal war in Northern Uganda pitting the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) against the Uganda People's Defense Forces (UPDF). These are stories of Former Child Soldiers (FCS), please use your discretion as these stories are both horrific and heart-rendering.

The study sought to achieve the following objectives:

  • To facilitate a platform for FCS to share their experiences and challenges of abduction and escape from captivity.
  • To establish the community and family perceptions and attitude towards FCS.
  • To identify gaps in the implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities/Juba Peace Agreement (CHA) (2006), agenda item V on DDR, the institutional mechanisms and the current state of FCS with regard to DDR.
  • To establish and highlight the locally-generated and FCS-based frameworks for reintegration.
  • The content scope of this research was to document and analyze the experiences and challenges of FCS with regard to their reintegration into families and communities within the CHA broader agenda item V.


A total of 180 primary informants were purposely selected out of 264 interviewed using the principles of participatory feedback and primary respondent-centered ownership of the research. Of respondents, 52% were male, and 48% were female.

Key Findings:

Females seemed more unwilling to respond to the the participation due to fear of being identified, fear of community reprisal or, a manifestation of inadequate or lack of psycho-social support.

    1. The majority of children abducted (58.9%) were 15 years of age and below, a clear indication of loss of childhood including schooling for many, in addition to horrifying traumatic experiences.
    2. Major health issues were identified among FCS including bullet wounds and fragments in the body, septic wounds, fistula, HIV/AIDS and cardiac problems.The physical scars or bullets lodged in their bodies has rendered some of them unable to find spouses or fend for themselves.
    3. Of the 87 females interviewed, 39 returned as child mothers.
    4. While 60% of the abducted children found themselves in the hands of Uganda People's Defense Forces (UPDF) and later reception centers, many (40%) did not receive initial counseling and support. Many experienced constant death threats, spiritual initiation rituals ranging from sitting on dead bodies to having sex with an older person, lasting 1-6 years in captivity. Thus, one can understand the extreme levels of trauma and lack of livelihoods among FCS currently.
    5. Large portions of FCS expressed concerns of psychological suffering and/or trauma as a result of their experiences in captivity, including but not limited to, nightmares, anxiety and fits of anger, as well as alienation, appropriation, dispossession, guilt, loneliness, and poor relation with others (aggression, shouting, commanding, etc.).
    6. Over half found either one or both parents dead. This means a sizable number returned as orphans, with a greater number losing their fathers.

To learn more about the next steps and the multi-sector network promoting reintegration and reconciliation, click here to read about the work of the National Platform for Child Soldier Reintegration and Prevention in Uganda.

The following slideshow includes recent ESPERE workshops featuring our colleagues in Uganda and Kenya. Many of the participants represent the aspirations detailed in the Alone and Frightened Report.

[slide] [img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_1.jpg"]Co-founder's Diane Goldin and Travis Rejman meet with Everest Okwonga, the Principal at St. Janani Luwum Vocational Training Centre[/img] [img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_2.jpg"]Co-founder's Diane Goldin and Travis Rejman meet with students at a trade school for former child combatants in Gulu[/img] [img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_3.jpg"]Co-founder Diane Goldin meets with students in a Gulu classroom during the Institute's June2014 trip to the region to take part on child soldier reintegration efforts[/img][img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_4.jpg"]Participants of a workshop conducted by Global Associate Lissette Mateus Roa take part in one of the exercises teaching 'forgiveness'[/img][img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_5.jpg"] Global Associate Lissette Mateus Roa (bottom left) and her group of ESPERE students. Also included is friend and colleague and Associate emeritus Dr. Dorcas Kiplagat (standing 5th from right)[/img] [img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_6.jpg"]Participants of the ESPERE workshop during a training session[/img][img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_7.jpg"]Global Associate Lissette Mateus Roa (standing) leads a training session in Gulu[/img][img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_9.jpg"]Global Associate Lissette Mateus conducts an exercise with participants of the ESPERE workshop in June 2014[/img][img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_15.jpg"]Global Associate Lissette Mateus (sitting foreground) leads her ESPERE training group[/img][img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_28.jpg"]Co-founder Diane Goldin meets with students at the St Janani Vocational School. The School is made up of mostly former child soldiers learning new skills (like carpentry in this classroom) to rejoin civilian life.[/img] [img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_27.jpg"]The workshop attended by former child combatants[/img][img path="images/slideshow/full/uganda2014_34.jpg"]Institute co-founder Diane Goldin meets with Ajok Dorah - a psychologist specializing in giving counsel to former child combatants returning to their communities.[/img][/slide]

Arigatou Fights Child Poverty

GI Partner organization Arigatou International offers real-life solutions to fighting child poverty

We are proud of our history working on behalf of children with the organization Arigatou International. Our longtime partner and director of Arigatou, Dr. Mustafa Y. Ali, is excited to share the latest yearbook chronicling their work in bringing communities together to eradicate childhood poverty in regions of the world where it often doesn't get the attention it deserves. For Mustafa, this work continues his mission to build better futures for children as an internationally recognized peace activist. 

Arigatou's model for addressing the issue, lies in combating child poverty through interfaith-advocacy and lobbying efforts. In 2012, they began the campaign End Child Poverty, which focuses on a multi-faith, child-centered initiative mobilizing faith-inspired resources to end child poverty. Since that time, religious leaders, international organizations and grassroots child rights workers have adopted the framework developed by Arigatou.

This 2014-15 year book, details the principles, initiatives, success stories and campaign activities in places like Colombia, the DRCongo, Kenya and India. Download the full report, which includes photos and highlights of the past year and the goals for the future, as Arigatou and its partners expand to reach more children in need.  


[quote]It is unlikely that governments alone, even while acting through bilateral and multilateral arrangements, can match the mission of the broad-based effort that is required to eradicate poverty. Any effort to stamp out poverty must re- sult in a broad coalition between governments, multilateral organizations, civil society and faith-inspired organizations."[/quote]

- Prof. Abdulghafur El-Busaidy, the Chairperson of Arigatou International Nairobi


-Above banner image: Children directly impacted by the work of Arigatou International and the ongoing End Child Poverty campaign.
Photo Credit: Arigatou International

Partners in East Africa Build Community Strategies to Fight Violence

Partnership with Arigatou International Continues Effective Peacebuilding  

Because we remain committed to the issue of child soldier prevention and reintegration, our project work often exposes us to the disturbing reality of youth participation in militant violence. East Africa in particular has suffered from a growing problem of terrorist groups focusing their recruitment efforts on the youth of the region. Parents in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Somalia have called for assistance in addressing the issue of their children being recruited or forced to join Al-Shabaab and other armed militant groups.

Because of prior work in the region building a National Platform addressing the issue, the Goldin Institute and Arigatou International are expanding our partnership to address this problem of child recruitment. To that end, at the beginning of this year, 24 practitioners in local grassroots initiatives gathered together for a workshop in Kenya to discuss strategies on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). The discussion was robust and varied; starting with an identification of what makes communities vulnerable to violent extremism. Participants came to understand that the lack of employment opportunities, the disintegration of trust and respect amongst community members of different faiths, and extensive marginalization of women, have combined to make children more vulnerable to exploitation.

Attendees also discussed the vulnerability of youth who too often grapple with self-doubt and self-realization which puts them in vulnerable positions for recruitment. Participants decided that their voice as a community is important and have pledged to collectively identify issues, foster relationships with government authorities and most importantly counter extremist groups from both a hands-on and policy perspective. Participants came to the conclusion that investments in each other must be made to build stronger societies and partnerships with government must be developed for government enforced change.


[quote]At the end of the workshop, community response proved to be the most effective way to prevent violent extremism. Participants came to an understanding that Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) will be the epicenter of restoration and strengthening of the values and principles of individuals and societies against violence and its related activities. The training effectively captured the underlying causes and grievances that make communities vulnerable to violent extremism; it also created an integral solution for these problems."[/quote]

- Excerpted from full report, which can be viewed here.