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Female Soldiers in Sierra Leone

Female Soldiers in Sierra Leone: Sex, Security, and Post-Conflict Development

Megan H. MacKenzie
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 187
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  • Book Info
    Female Soldiers in Sierra Leone
    Book Description:

    The eleven-year civil war in Sierra Leone from 1991 to 2002 was incomprehensibly brutal - it is estimated that half of all female refugees were raped and many thousands were killed. While the publicity surrounding sexual violence helped to create a general picture of women and girls as victims of the conflict, there has been little effort to understand female soldiers' involvement in, and experience of, the conflict. Female Soldiers in Sierra Leone draws on interviews with 75 former female soldiers and over 20 local experts, providing a rare perspective on both the civil war and post-conflict development efforts in the country. Megan MacKenzie argues that post-conflict reconstruction is a highly gendered process, demonstrating that a clear recognition and understanding of the roles and experiences of female soldiers are central to both understanding the conflict and to crafting effective policy for the future.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-7125-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. FOREWORD: The New Feminist International Relations
    (pp. xi-xii)

    At last, students of feminist international relations (IR) have become interested in the women hiding in plain view: the women of war and conflict, which is to say the women who become agents of collective violence and, when possible, of post-conflict strategies. The violent woman of international relations is not only more “ OK” to study than she once was; she is apt to be visited in situ by academics from a field that used to associate fieldwork with comparative politics, anthropology, and area studies. True IR scholars once seemed to theorize from their university offices and to produce high...

  5. 1 Introduction: Conjugal Order and Insecurity Post-Conflict
    (pp. 1-22)

    One of the most illustrative signifiers of Sierra Leone’s eleven-year civil conflict is an image of a boy, about twelve years old, wearing tattered clothing and a tough expression and holding an AK-47.¹ Variations of this image have been used on countless pamphlets and posters to “raise awareness” about child soldiers, to solicit donations for war-torn African countries, and to advertise the need for research in the areas of peace and post-conflict. This singular image is used to represent “Africa,” or some idea of Africa as a landmass united by troubled civil wars, corruption, and underdevelopment.² The young boy soldier...

  6. 2 The History of Sex, Order, and Conflict in Sierra Leone
    (pp. 23-44)

    The majority of the current literature on Sierra Leone tends to focus on one of the following: the “chaotic” nature of Africa in general and West Africa in particular,² the eleven-year civil conflict ³, the role of blood diamonds in conflicts,⁴ child soldiers,⁵ and the lessons to be learned from the United Nations’ mission and intervention in the Sierra Leone conflict.⁶ There is a dearth of critical scholarship that explores the roles and activity of women during the war or their lives post– armed conflict. Perhaps the most notable omission in this literature is in primary data such as individual...

  7. 3 Defining Soldiers
    (pp. 45-62)

    Female soldiers wholly disrupt gendered binaries associated with war, particularly the contrasting image of the male warrior and female victim. Furthermore, female soldiers challenge dominant war mythologies, including the myth that women are naturally peaceful and men are naturally violent or heroic. Acknowledging that female soldiers exist requires a radical rethinking of prevailing war narratives as well as a substantial reorganization of post–armed conflict and peace-building policies. Despite ample evidence that females participated in the conflict, policy makers in Sierra Leone largely refused to acknowledge these women and girls and name them as beneficiaries, or as subjects worthy of...

  8. 4 Empowerment Boom or Bust? Assessing Women’s Post–Armed Conflict Empowerment Initiatives
    (pp. 63-84)

    “Empowerment” has become one of the most frequently used terms in development discourses today. From the creation of water wells to microfi-nance programs to political awareness campaigns, development initiatives have lauded themselves as sources of empowerment for their beneficiaries. As with many other buzzwords in development, actors offer vastly disparate, and often vague, definitions of empowerment. Despite the varying conceptions of the term, empowerment is consistently associated with progressive, representative, and inclusive development policies and programs. Specifically, for many development actors, empowerment programs are advertised as proof that development approaches have evolved in response to previous criticisms of the top...

  9. 5 Securitization and Desecuritization: Female Soldiers and the Reconstruction of Women
    (pp. 85-98)

    Lene Hansen proposes that “a critical discourse might start by challenging the key representations of identity that underpin the policy in question.”³ This DDR in Sierra Leone?” Through a critical discourse analysis of news reports and NGO, INGO, government, and aid agency documents and policies, as well as existing literature on the disarmament process in Sierra Leone, I show how the majority of the policy responses to this question send three specific gendered messages: first, they perpetuate the notion of women as ideal victims lacking agency during war; second, these accounts of the DDR presume that the program was effective...

  10. 6 Securitizing Sex? Rethinking Wartime Sexual Violence
    (pp. 99-116)

    The question “Why is rape deemed an effective tool of war?” has not been sufficiently explored and has been limited by traditional conflict and security metaphors. Continuing to focus on Sierra Leone, this chapter will explore dominant approaches to wartime rape and offer a new framework from which to consider why rape is used as a tool of war and why it has been a part of militant strategies through history. Questioning the utility of wartime rape and the possible strategic gains to be had from its use poses use of wartime rape points to embedded patriarchal norms that are...

  11. 7 Loving Your Enemy Rape, Sex, Childbirth, and Politics Post–Armed Conflict
    (pp. 117-136)

    Sara Ruddick has written that “[women’s] maternal conception of the history of human flesh sets them at odds with militarist endeavours.”³ Ruddick’s work is representative of maternal feminists’ conclusions about women’s natural aversion to war and conflict. Ruddick has written about the positive impact of motherhood on women and especially how it transforms women’s perspectives on ethics, care, and violence. Although Ruddick has admitted that her perspective is a product of her position as a white, heterosexual, Western woman, the limits of this argument have perhaps been underestimated. Associating sex and childbirth as a natural and positive experience for woman...

  12. 8 Conclusion Displacing War Mythology and Developmental Logic
    (pp. 137-146)

    This book began with reference to an image of a young male holding an AK-47. The young man was discussed as symbolic of oversimplified characterizations of chaotic, irrational, and male-driven civil wars in Africa. Perhaps it is fitting now to think about what—if any—iconic images of African women exist. A quick online image search using any combination of “Africa,” “war,” and “women” will inevitably produce a barrage of pictures of female victims or peacemakers. It is apparent that images of swomen are primarily used to represent the aftermath of civil war or the devastating effect of war on...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 147-168)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 169-174)
    (pp. 175-175)