Lost Boys of Sudan hoopla, but what about the Girls?
Thousands of boys and men are being resettled to america, the so called Lost Boys of Sudan get to come to the land of Nike and Nintendo while the girls are left to suffer.
The Lost Boys have become the current cause celebre for liberals looking for an issue to assuage the vague guilt that tickles the edges of their consciousness. I caught a morning news report that had several "Lost Boys" being fawned over by celebrities in Hollywood. One well dressed woman bedecked with jewelry and a designer dress told them over and over again, in her Boston/New York upper crust accent, what heroes they were to her. I kept expecting her to invite them to a dinner party where they could be jockeys on her lawn. I'm sure she tut tutted over the Kurds and sang "We Are the World" before returning to her opulent life. <p>
This really isn't about celebrity hypocrisy but gender discrimination. Why aren't women and girls being offered these types of massive resettlement? While the Lost Boys have had a horrific experience, is what they have suffered worse than what the girls have experienced? Or are currently experiencing? <p>
Let's put this in a broader context: <p>
At any given time there are at least 20 wars raging on the African continent, these wars are being fought over control of the vast resources of Africa. The primary casualties of the conflicts are women and children. Calling the conflicts "wars" is probably a misnomer, a more accurate word would be genocide. Women are the strength and power keeping tribal social structure and self sufficiency alive, this form of life has no place in the modern world, so the women must be eliminated. Along with murder women also bear the brunt of sexual torture that is one of the primary weapons used by the agents of Western corporate interests. How many millions of women and children would welcome genuine help or resettlement to America to escape this? <p>
So why are we focused in on this one particular atrocity? <p>
Why are we focused on only the male suffering in this one atrocity? <p>
The US government and mainstream media wouldn't be investing so much time, attention and money in an issue like this if there weren't some strategic interest involved, does the region's proximity to key energy resources have anything to do with it? Gee, I wonder. OK, that's fine but if the US wants to cultivate closer ties with the Sudan by exporting thousands of males to America, why are women not being included in the deal? The media information makes it sound like it's not possible to rescue any girls, it that really true? Try this, type in Lost Boys Sudan in Google and see how many hits you get, literally thousands of articles describing the tribulations of the Lost Boys, then type in Lost Girls Sudan and see what happens, many hits you get regard the "Lost Boys" but there will be a couple of pages regarding the plight of the forgotten girls (only a tiny fraction of the amount of pages re the boys), researching these postings and it becomes clear the suffering of girls and women were being ignored during the frenzy to bring "The Boys" to the US despite their availability and willingness to be helped. Why? Is there something more intrinsically appealing about boys? Are they just plain "cuter" on camera? Are girls somehow unclean and dirty? I wonder if the specter of sexual violence makes females somehow poor candidates for public sympathy, much easier to describe the trials and tribulations experienced by the boys than the trials, tribulations AND sexual violence perpetrated on girls. Perhaps this is just a manifestation of a male centric culture that values men more than women. While the reports posted below indicate there is a recognition that women's suffering and needs may even be greater than men's, the Lost Boy issue demonstrates that this message may still be lost to US mainstream public consciousness. <p>
Following Extract taken from REFUGEES magazine produced by UNHCR<p>
The Lost Girls of Sudan <p>
Man-eating lions, crocodiles, famine... it was a terrible ordeal for thousands of boys and girls, but each group faced very different futures <p>
Remember the Lost Boys of Sudan? Thousands of youths ripped from their homes in the late 1980s by fighting in Sudan and forced to wander for years across the east African savannah. Their amazing odyssey became the stuff of African legend.
They eventually reached Kenya, where they languished in flyblown camps for years, becoming known as The Lost Boys of Sudan, intriguing refugee officials by their very survival, before the United States eventually agreed to resettle nearly 4,000 whose parents were dead or missing.
As they flew in small groups to all parts of America, the boys became instant celebrities, interviewed endlessly in the media about their amazing survival. Forgotten in all this hoopla were the fates of several thousand girls aged between eight and ten who had undergone similar ordeals. <p>
Achol Kuol (not her real name) was seven when she, her mother and four brothers fled their Sudanese village because of vicious fighting between rebels and government troops. They trudged first to Ethiopia, returned to Sudan and then headed south to Kenya in a trek that lasted for years.
'There was little water to drink, we survived on leaves and wild fruit,' the teenager recalled. 'Some of the girls were eaten by lions.' Somewhere in the bush she lost touch with her mother, who is still missing.
Another girl, Adeu, recalls crossing the River Gilo on the Sudanese-Ethiopian border. 'I can remember being held by two of my uncles who were helping me across. One of them was swept away and that was the last time I saw him. I was later told he had been eaten by a crocodile.'
The Sudanese youngsters, girls and boys, reached Kenya's Kakuma refugee camp in the early 1990s. The boys remained a reasonably identifiable group, which finally caught the attention and sympathy of resettlement countries. However, following Sudanese cultural traditions, many of the girls were absorbed into foster families and left to a very uncertain fate, overlooked and forgotten by the outside world.
Achol Kuol has already survived one brutal attempt to kidnap her back to Sudan and into a forced marriage. The girl believes this will only be the first of repeated attempts to marry her off. Arranged marriages are, after all, big business. Her first suitor offered her foster parents 50 cattle, which represents a huge sum in Sudan, as a dowry. <p>
Yar Jok (not her real name) was nine years old when she left her village. She does not even know where and when she lost her parents during her wanderings. When she arrived at Kakuma she, too, was adopted by foster parents. One night, a man entered her hut, stuffed her mouth with a piece of cloth and raped her. Initially she kept the assault a secret. As in many societies, the victim of a rape among Sudanese is often judged as a guilty party and Yar Jok worried that 'if people got to know I had been raped, no man would want to marry me.'
However she was also now pregnant and her secret became obvious. She was rejected by both her foster parents and the refugee community but eventually moved in with a woman from her mother's clan. Like Achol Kuol, she is a worried woman. She fears no man will want to marry her because her rapist may one day return and claim her daughter.
At home both girls, like many others, are little more than unpaid servants, cooking, cleaning and collecting firewood. Yar Jok joined a school for dropouts but cannot attend regularly because she must look after her baby. Other girls attend Kakuma's secondary school.
Education, no matter how limited, offers a sliver of hope, but none of the girls have yet been given the opportunity to board a gleaming aircraft, learn to use a computer and plan a new life of hope in a strange country.
The following excerpts are from GBV (Gender Based Violence Report): <p>
"In the late 1980s, thousands of boys and girls fled their homes in Sudan because of armed fighting. They wandered around East Africa for years, with many dying on the way and the rest surviving as best as they could until, in the early 1990s, they eventually reached the Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya. The ordeal of the so-called 'lost boys of Sudan' received quite a lot of media attention. After several more years languishing in the camp, 4,000 of the boys, whose parents had either died or were missing, were offered resettlement in the United States. By contrast, no one highlighted the plight of the 'lost girls'. Among those who made it to Kenya there were several thousands girls aged 8-10. Most of them were absorbed by foster families in the camp, with many becoming little more than unpaid servants. No one offered them resettlement. In the refugee camp, the girls suffered from rape, early pregnancies, kidnapping, and forced marriage." <p>
[TOP] Women refugees <p>
Forced migration is one of the most visible consequences of armed conflict. Despite the fact that women and children account for a majority of refugees and IDPs, up until relatively recently their needs and strengths were not taken into account. The gender-based discrimination that affects women and girls in most societies before and during conflict is usually replicated or even exacerbated during forced migration. Although since the 1990s there have been major efforts to improve protection and assistance for displaced females, most female refugees and IDPs still face violence and discrimination. Women seeking asylum <p>
"Women fleeing to other countries often find it difficult to obtain refugee status on their own, instead of as dependents. The 1951 Refugee Convention (Geneva Convention), on which most states' asylum laws are based, considers refugees 'persons outside their country of nationality who have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion' (Mertus 2000) . Gender-based violence is not explicitly included as a form of persecution, although recently human rights advocates have made some progress in forcing states to recognize gender-based persecution as grounds for claiming asylum and to eliminate discrimination against women refugees. Canada was the first country to adopt such an approach in 1993, making no distinction between public (domestic) and private violence against women. Since then, other countries, like the United States, have followed suit, but the practical results of such advancements still need to be studied. "
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