|The Voices of Children at War|
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AUDIENCE READER: I am Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu of South Africa. I believe that [I]t is immoral that adults should want children to fight their wars for them...There is simply no excuse, no acceptable argument for arming children.
AUDIENCE READER: I am Graca Machel. I have researched the use of child soldiers for the UN. I believe that child soldiers are [a]n affront to humanity and can exist only in a moral vacuum in which all restraints have been eroded and discarded - a world in which children are no longer considered precious.
PRINCIPAL STAGE READER: The use of child soldiers violates many basic human rights of children guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
STAGE READER #2: Article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as "every human being below the age of 18 years."
STAGE READER #3: Article 32 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child requires governments to protect children from "any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child's education." Clearly military service, even military training jeopardises the heath and safety of children. And the power relationships in the military leave young recruits vulnerable to physical and psychological abuse and sometimes even rape.
PRINCIPAL STAGE READER: At the international level, there has been some progress toward a global ban on the use of child soldiers. In 2000, the United Nation General Assembly adopted a new international protocol banning the use of soldiers under 18. Since then, 111 countries have signed the treaty, indicating that they approve of it and intend to ratify it.
STAGE READER #4: Yes, but only 52 have ratified it, making it legally binding to observe this new law.
STAGE READER #2: And many of those countries that have agreed to the ban on paper, still continue to recruit youth under 18 into their armies, often falsifying their identity papers to make them seem older.
STAGE READER #3: However, more and more governments have stopped recruiting children under 18 into the military. Even some armed groups have committed themselves to this principle.
STAGE READER #1: But what can ordinary people, especially young people like us, do to stop this crime against children?
AUDIENCE READERS: (Standing.) Make people aware of what is happening to children!
AUDIENCE READERS: (Remain standing.) Find out if our country recruits children under 18 into the military!
AUDIENCE READERS: (Remain standing.) Find out if our country has signed the treaty banning child soldiers!
AUDIENCE READERS: (Remain standing.) Find out if our country is observing the ban!
AUDIENCE READERS: (All those standing speak together and emphatically. Then sit down.) Make people aware!
The last words today belong to a former child soldier from Uganda, one of the lucky few who escaped and made it back to the family and school from which she had been stolen.
AUDIENCE READER: (Ideally standing at the front row and turning
to face the audience.) I would like to give you a message. Please do
your best to tell the world what is happening to us, the children, so
that other children don't have to pass through this violence.
Illustration: Felicity O. Yost. Source: Marie, In the Shadow of the Lion, by Jerry Piasecki. © United Nations, 2001