Our Stories Matter, Our Own Way: Engaging Young People in Post-Conflict Truth-Telling

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"Our Stories Matter, Our Own Way: Exploring the Safe and Meaningful Engagement of Young People in Transitional Justice in Northern Uganda." is the tile of Dr. Cheryl Heykoop's dissertation, completed as a requirement of receiving the title Doctor of Social Sciences, with Distinction.

' Children have an important and unique role in processes that seek truth, justice and reconciliation. Adults can act on behalf of children and in the best interests of children, but unless children themselves are consulted and engaged, we will fall short and undermine the potential to pursue the most relevant and the most durable solutions' (Machel, 2001 in Parmar, et al., 2010, p. x).

Traditionally, young people are not involved in determining how to best engage young people in post-conflict truth telling. Dr. Cheryl Heykoop conducted her doctoral research in northern Uganda, where tens of thousands of children were forcibly abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army in two decades of conflict. In partnership with Makerere University’s Refugee Law Project, this doctoral research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the International Development Research Centre engaged 107 young people aged 11-23 who experienced the conflict in different ways in Northern Ugnada to identify if and how they would want to share about the past in a post-conflict truth telling process, and  to co-create ways to share their experiences with the anticipated Ugandan truth commission.

The war did not leave out children. Young people equally suffered and if their parents are asked to talk on their behalf, maybe they can say everything, maybe they cannot say it the way the children would have, so young people should participate… If you exclude children you are leaving out a vital story for the truth commission (Young Person).

For young survivors of conflict, testifying in front of a truth commission can cause further harm.

“Neighbours will turn your issues into their laughing issues. Some will abuse you. Sometimes others will finger-point at you. Some will despise you,” - young person affected by war in northern Uganda.

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