About the event
Red Hand Day for Child Soldiers is an annual commemoration drawing attention to the plight of children forced to serve as soldiers in wars and armed conflicts. The Red Hand symbol has been used all over the world by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers and many civil society organisations to say no to the recruitment and use of child soldiers. The Day was initiated in 2002 when the ‘Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict’ came into force on February 12th.
Since then, the number of child soldiers has hardly changed - there are still 250,000 children used in wars as soldiers. The 12th of February has become a day for national and regional coalitions, NGOs, individuals and interested parties to hold events to highlight the issue of child soldiers.
How to approach it
This day is an opportunity to talk to students about war and building peace using the powerful analogy of other children being conscripted. Here, we can use empathy building exercises for students to imagine what it may be like getting recruited, often forcibly, to fight in a war. Ask: how might you be feeling? What would it feel like to stop school and get taken away from your families? If you were a child soldier what would you want the world to know?
An interesting point for discussion in class: Child Soldiers International advocates that 18 should be the minimum age for military recruitment of any kind. Do your students think it right that one in four new British Army recruits is aged 16 or 17?
Can you imagine leaving school tomorrow and fighting a war? How would you feel? Unfortunately, there are children around the world who are forced to become soldiers. This day is a time to call for an end to child soldiers and to support their return to normal life.