International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers: Salesian missions highlight educational and social programs for child soldiers – World

At least 46 UN member states still recruit children under the age of 18 into their armed forces

(MissionNewswire) Salesian missions, the US development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and the international community in honoring February 12 as Red Hand Day, also known as the International Day Against the Use of child soldiers. The day began when the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict entered into force on February 12, 2002. This protocol was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (UN) in May 2000 and has been ratified by 168 UN Member States.

In 2001, the UN Security Council sent a powerful message to the world: the recruitment of child soldiers would no longer be tolerated. Resolution 1379 asked the UN Secretary-General to attach an annex to his report on children and armed conflict, in which he would list the parties to the conflict that recruit and use children in situations on the agenda. of the UN Security Council. Subsequent resolutions added four additional triggers for listing: sexual violence, killing and maiming, attacks on schools and hospitals, and child abduction.

The first Global Child Soldier Index was launched in 2018 by Child Soldiers International, a human rights group. This provided the first comprehensive global resource on child recruitment. The Global Index covers all 197 UN Member States and includes over 10,000 data points, including data on national laws, policies and practices of child recruitment around the world. Currently, at least 46 states still recruit children under the age of 18 into their armed forces. In addition, there have been at least 18 conflict situations in which children have participated in hostilities.

The poverty and lack of opportunities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have created more situations of children at risk of being recruited by armed forces and armed groups, or of suffering sexual violence or abduction. Educational opportunities that have already been disrupted by war and displacement continue to disappear, leaving children vulnerable.

“Children used in hostilities and war have faced unimaginable violence and abuse and need our support to get a second chance at life,” said Fr Gus Baek, Director of Salesian Missions. “In countries around the world, Salesian missionaries work with former child soldiers so that they can overcome the trauma of war and reintegrate into society.”

In honor of the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers, the Salesian Mission is proud to highlight programs that help child soldiers by providing education and psychosocial support.


The Don Bosco Vocational Training Center teaches employment skills to former child soldiers in Colombia.

Salesian missionaries give hope for a better life to former child soldiers at the Don Bosco Vocational Training Center (Don Bosco Center) in Cali, Colombia. The country’s guerrillas have claimed more than 300,000 lives and fueled the growth of powerful drug cartels.

The Don Bosco Center offers a chance for rehabilitation to young people who were torn from their families at a young age and forced to shoot, throw bombs or become servants of officers and sexually abused.

Upon their arrival at the Don Bosco Centre, the young people receive a uniform and tools corresponding to the trade they have chosen to learn**. **Most importantly, they have the opportunity to regain their personal identity and begin to rebuild their self-esteem and trust in others.

The Don Bosco Center has a team of professionals who help young people to draw up a formation plan. Young people can take courses to become electricians, industrial mechanics, auto repair technicians, cooks, tailors, beauticians, welders, computer scientists, accountants, librarians or business secretaries. Workshops are the cornerstone of development. Young people learn safety rules, handle machinery and products, and undergo life skills training to help personally and professionally.

Currently, five Salesians support 30 young people in the program. For security reasons, the young people live in the centre. Their names have not been removed from the lists held by the guerrilla leaders, who aim to reinstate them or to avenge their departure. At the center, young people learn to readapt to normal life: share a meal with friends, have free time and understand the rules of peaceful coexistence. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these young people stepped up and put their new skills to good use creating face masks for the city’s residents.


In Liberia, Mary Help of Christians School provides a foundation of education and support for former child soldiers.

Run by Salesian Sisters, the Mary Help of Christians School provides a foundation of education and support for young students who would otherwise have limited opportunities, many of whom are former child soldiers. The school started in 1993 and enrolls just over 560 students. The school also has a feeding program, which serves over 100 students each day.

It is one of the many schools in which the Salesian missionaries operate Liberia. The Salesians have been present in Monrovia since 1979 and run parishes, youth houses, schools and oratories.

In 2019, Don Bosco Technical High School, also in Monrovia, launched a vocational training course for electrical technicians. An afternoon course is offered to high school students, in addition to their current school career. There is also a morning class for young workers to help them gain certification to improve their options in the job market.

The launch of the electrical technician training was part of an initiative that included the renovation of the existing space at the Don Bosco technical school to transform it into a workshop. The initiative aimed to meet labor market needs while ensuring young people have access to vocational and technical training that helps them find long-term stable employment. The electrical engineering course is accessible each year to 90 high school students and 30 non-qualified electricians.


In Mali, the Father Michael Salesian Training Center supports hundreds of young people and has a deterrent effect on the recruitment of children as child soldiers.

The Father Michael Salesian Training Center in Bamako, the capital and largest city of mali, brings joy, provides education and cultivates peace among children and older youth. The center keeps its doors open all day and provides support to hundreds of young people from the Niarela district and the outskirts of the city. It also has a deterrent effect on the recruitment of children as child soldiers.

Young people come to the center to play sports, learn music or study at its library. The center offers a haven of peace where young people have the opportunity to live, to dream of a future, to study and to learn the importance of commitment and collaboration in groups. They can express themselves freely and access support from adults.

The aim is to keep young people aged 12 to 25 away from the streets and harmful habits such as alcohol or drugs. Instead, young people are offered an educational space in their free time that promotes cultural activities and enables the development of values. Salesian missionaries have been able to access sports equipment for the women’s basketball team, set up a music training center and organize health and hygiene awareness days to prevent disease and promote a healthy lifestyle. healthy living.



Children and armed conflict

ANS Photos (permissions for use and guidelines should be requested from YEAR)

COLOMBIA: 30 former child soldiers restore confidence in others

LIBERIA: Salesian School of Mary Help of Christians educates 560 students every year

MALI: Center provides safe haven for young people

Salesian missions

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