A photo of 2 little girls

Date: January 1, 1970
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The article is about how a photographer helped reunite two little girls who had been separated from their family in Kiwanja region of the Congo, through the photograph of the girls that was captured in the media. It describes how he visited the mother and drove to find the girls.

This article may be used to:
  • highlight the plight of children in war zones and the complexity of trying to cope in conflict situations.
  • suggest how individuals can make a difference.
  • demonstrate how wars disproportionately affect women and children
  • demonstrate the power of photography
  • demonstrate reporting on children’s issues sensitively.
  • demonstrate media’s ability to raise awareness and provoke responses to an issue.

Trainer’s notes

The article raises awareness to the plight of children in conflict situations. According to United Nations Children’s Fund, since fighting started in the Eastern DRC more than 1 600 children have been separated from their parents.11 year old Protégee travelled for more than 20 kms in search of her parents with no food or water and with her 3-year-old niece on her back. Children separated from parents and relatives are often targets of soldiers who recruit them to train as child soldiers or sex slaves, subjecting them to despicable human rights violations.

The article also highlights the extent to which conflicts disproportionately affect women and children. In the absence of parents and relatives, children are often forced to assume the role of taking care of their siblings and, thus robbing them of their child hood and innocence. Furthermore schooling is often disrupted, subjecting the children to a life of illiteracy. Children are often separated from their mothers at a time when they need them the most.
The senseless nature of conflict is portrayed. More than 250 000 people have been displaced. Essential services are disrupted and it is ordinary citizens who feel the brunt. Needless to say reconstruction efforts are often very costly and most counties fresh from conflict can hardly afford this,personel is often war weary and many able bodied people are either away in exile or lost their lives during the conflict.
Though the story itself has a happy ending and the message in the article is not entirely hopeful. The story highlights the power of imagery and the role that ordinary people can play in united children separated from their parents. Yet, at the same time circulating the picture of the children poses ethical questions. According to guidelines on reporting on children, vulnerable children’s identities, especially unaccompanied children in conflict, must be protected.
Discussion questions
  • What are the long-term affects of conflict on children?
  • How can media sensitively tell the story of children in conflict?
  • Discuss media’s ability to raise awareness and dialogue on children’s issues.
  • Is it ethical to photograph unaccompanied children?
 Training exercises
  • Help refugee mothers write or draw their stories as part of a project to highlight what women face in conflict situations.
  • Ask participants to partner with social workers and interview child asylum /seekers refugees about their stories (It is important that this is done with experts to avoid subjecting the children to secondary trauma.)
  • In South Africa, children’s rights are enshrined in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child, The Bill of Rights of the Constitution and the African Charter on the Rights of the Child. Ask participants to familiarise themselves with such documents and agreements in their own countries.

Links to other resurces

Media Monitoring Africa

Related GL Commentaries

Children and adults must raise voices against abuse
Congo’s missing girl soldiers


Download : A photo of 2 little girls TheStar20Nov 2008 Congo

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