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What happens to the women and children?

I have been watching the unfolding of tension in central Africa since before my visit in 2008.  Reports of rebels attacking villages.  Allegations of government corruption. Growing tensions between neighboring countries. This morning I found this article in my inbox: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/03/us-burundi-rebellion-idUSBRE8820HP20120903

A group has officially declared war on Burundi.

You may be accustomed to thinking about war in terms of the risk to soldiers, but my heart and fears immediately turn to the women and children who are caught in the midst of struggles for power.  Some migrate to “safer” parts of the country or to neighboring countries in an attempt to keep their families alive – they may never return.  Some are killed in village raids.  Some are raped in an attempt to further destroy the people’s courage to fight back. Young boys may be conscripted into armies against their will.

My heart is breaking today, and I fear for the friends I met while in Burundi.

I read an interesting book about the problems women face when they migrate due to war, Transforming Displaced Women in Sudan: Politics and the Body in a Squatter Settlement. It was a bit slow to read, but the author was able to get fascinating insights into the lives of these women. For example:

  • Women were continually asked when they would go home (implying they were not wanted where they were), despite the fact that they were citizens of Sudan.
  • Women who returned home were seen as traitors by those who stayed, but women who did not return were seen as traitors to their families.
  • Women had to negotiate a different culture about beauty, marriage and life – deciding what to incorporate and what to reject knowing that the less they accepted the less society would accept them.

Yes, soldiers die in war.  But let’s not neglect the other problems war brings.

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