University of Wyoming professor Susan McKay is in the third phase of a research project studying former girl soldiers in Uganda, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Her findings have been wide-ranging, but her most recent discoveries have been concerned with the “stigma and marginalization” faced by the women, many of them young mothers, attempting to transition back into their old communities and lives with their small children.
McKay said that often the girls with children live alone in dire poverty and sometimes must resort to prostitution because they have a hard time becoming part of the community.
McKay, working with 100 local academics and agency workers, as well as several child welfare organizations, has conducted her study in 20 research sites and involved 700 participants. The project, titled ‘People in the community told us we are good for nothing:’ Community-based participatory research to empower war-affected girl mothers in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Northern Uganda’ in addition to being a research study, has also helped to aid the women in reintegration and empowerment.
To start, the researchers got the girls together and had them define their problems. Just that first step was valuable, McKay said…
Then the girls create plans to address their problems. Many have started small businesses together. They’ve also created dramas that they act out for their communities to help people understand how they’ve been marginalized, and that has resulted in changed behavior, McKay said.
More more information on the project, please see PARGirlMothers.