In the Democratic Republic of Congo, martial arts help children get away from fighting

Stories of UNICEF Innovation

By Mehdi Meddeb

The recruitment and use of children in armed forces is a violation of international law, and children who are recruited and forced to fight and kill suffer profound physical and psychological damage. Children not Soldiers, launched in 2014 by Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and UNICEF, is a campaign to make all government armed forces child-free by 2016.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, capoeira, a Brazilian martial arts form, has had a positive impact in helping children demobilized from armed forces to make the transition away from military life and reintegrate with their families and communities. 

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo, 11 February 2015 – “Aie! Aie! Isso!” Ninja gives the rally cry, and dozens of children rush forward at the instructor’s call. All of them already have their abadá, the white trousers of capoeira players. The…

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