13 April 2017

For some survivors of the Ugandan civil conflict, an end to hostilities has not meant peace. 2014 fellow Myriam Denov is in the final year of her Trudeau Project which studies the well-being of communities affected by civil conflict, especially children born of war-time rape in Northern Uganda. The findings published in Child Abuse & Neglect and co-authored with Atim Angela Lakor, have been as grim as they are important; many children reported that their lives were in fact better in many respects during war because of the extreme marginalization and stigmatization they have faced in the post-war period.

The authors partnered with Watye Ki Gen, a collective of women who were held captive by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), to interview 60 young people who were born of war-time rape and spent between a few months and seven years in captivity. They combined traditional interviews and focus groups with art workshops which helped the children speak more easily about their experiences. These workshops proved effective; children were asked to draw themselves before and after the war, and many of the post-war drawings featured self-portraits with sad faces. When asked to explain this choice, children described the violence, stigma, rejection, social exclusion, and socioeconomic marginalization they face in the post-war era.

The findings underscore the need for support services to reverse the perception that war is better than peace. Specifically, youths stressed the need for livelihood programs targeting their socioeconomic marginalization, support for school fees, psychosocial support and community sensitization and reconciliation programs.

The findings have implications for Uganda, but also for the Canadian context, where thousands of children flee each year from war zones. Denov’s research has the potential to help us better understand the needs of this vulnerable group and improve the services provided to them.

Read the article published in Child Abuse & Neglect
Read the press release from McGill University

Myriam Denov

Professor Denov works on the conditions and the prospects of children born of rape in Northern Uganda and other conflict zones. Grounded in one-on-one work with former child soldiers and with the soldiers’ own children, her Trudeau project will inform Canada’s programs for youth and families attempting to resettle after surviving war.

2014 Fellows