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Gendered Misconceptions of Militarized Identities: Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration of Female Combatants in the DRC

Marlene Houngbedji
Mar 2015

The prolonged conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has often been mischaracterized by a persistent narrative featuring women as perpetual victims of systemic sexual violence and male rebel groups as perpetrators. This incomplete understanding of the situation has resulted in failures to engage in effective and sustainable Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programs in the DRC. In short, institutions involved in transitional processes have neglected the presence of female combatants as active participants in the Congolese war, and thus failed to determine how women and girls who have abandoned traditional gender roles to become combatants can reclaim their identities as members in communities reluctant to welcome them back in their midst. As governmental actors, non-governmental organizations, and United Nations entities work to demobilize, demilitarize, and reintegrate fighters, they must come to terms with a novel idea: that redefining gender has become an integral part of long-term social and economic reconstruction.

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