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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Anthropology Club and Lambda Alpha Hold Forum on Child Soldiers

The Anthropology Club, along with UMass Boston’s anthropology honors society, Lambda Alpha, co-hosted a forum on the age-old issue and growing trend of child soldiers in Africa and around the world on Nov. 15. According to the organizers, there are more than 300,000 child soldiers in 30 countries involved in armed conflicts.

The discussion included the showing of a new documentary called “Invisible Children,” which brings to light the horrors of serving in a “child army.”

Following the film was a panel discussion featuring people brought up in war-torn countries in Africa and had seen these atrocities first hand.

The panel included Muna Kangsen, a political science major and undergraduate student senator; Denis Bogere, a political science and economics major and president of the United African for Growth; and Robert Gakwaya, originally from Rwanda and a chemistry major, he is also an active participant in the Save Darfur campaign. These three had a wealth of information to share and many opinions and suggestions on how to move forward in Africa, and other areas.

Bogere explained that the source of armed conflict, and the subsequent child soldier conscription, has to do with governments, both domestic and foreign.

“Our African governments are rotten to the core,” he said. “The greatest corrupting force […] is the superpowers […] Instead of [talking to the people][…] you have these leaders still catering to [Western interests].”

Kangsen came off as outspoken about foreign aid to Africa, explaining that it was not aid but re-compensation for colonialism, saying, “[Africans] are entitled to this money.”

Gakwaya explained the trauma that children feel when they are entered forced into the world of armed conflict, and afterwards the hard truth that they, in many cases, are adult in every sense of maturity, giving them toys won’t help, Gakwaya said, “Once a child [loses his innocence], you never get it back.”

Health issues must also be considered. Dr. Patrick Clarkin, a professor of Anthropology at UMass Boston, has studied many war zones over the years, and explained that statistics show that, among other things, attributes such as height, weight and, fat ratios, blood pressure and the age at which a child hits puberty, are often directly affected by war.

Looking at examples of Russia, Japan and Germany in the Second World War, one can see that all the preceding criteria lessened or deteriorated in the next generation that was born in to the war, or was very young when it began. The observation made from this is that fetuses, by the way they grow inside their mother, can biologically adjust their body to prepare for a life of hunger, or plenty depending on conditions in the womb, Clarkin said.

Concluding the forum was a panel discussion on how UMass Boston students and young people all over the U.S. and the planet can get involved to stop “child armies.”

For more information on how to get involved, visit www.worldvision.org.

Note: Due to deadlines and space limitations, a second article on the conference was not printed. Read it on he Mass Media’s website, www.umassmedia.com, and see more photos from all our stories.