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Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children


Documentary highlights the problem of child soldiers

By: Caitlin McKay

Toronto’s Hot Doc’s Documentary Film Festival is one of the biggest documentary festivals in the world. The lineup this year was excellent but the gripping documentary, Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children, stood out from the other films.

This documentary, based off Sen. Romeo’s Dallaire’s book of the same name, highlights a violent issue in many war-torn countries, the use of child soldiers. Sen. Dallaire was the United Nations General to Rwanda during the genocide. He witnessed countless horrors, human rights abuses, murders, rapes and other atrocities. Since then he has dedicated his life to rescuing child soldiers and preventing the crime from happening. The film follows Dallaire as he investigates the use of child soldiers in Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and South Sudan.

Since then he has dedicated his life to rescuing child soldiers and preventing the crime from happening.

The disturbing content of the film left me with a sick feeling – children as young as 13 are forced to maim and kill other men to please their “commanders.” While this information certainly added to my twisted gut, it was the feeling of powerlessness that really got to me. I left the theatre with my sister and Dad and we went for dinner. We went to a great Indian place in the Entertainment District in Toronto. All seemed normal. Except that it wasn’t.

While I was aware of the existence of child soldiers, this was the first time that it seemed real to me. As I sat with my family, I felt useless. I can’t exactly rush into the Congo and demand the children be spared but neither can I just continue to live my life. The film recognized that the issue of child soldiers was complex and didn’t come with a simple solution. There needs to be a holistic intervention, including the participation of governments, international organizations and NGOs to stop the war. No war, no child soldiers.

So where does that leave me and my urge to help? For those, like me, who aren’t able to make a direct impact, they are able to help in a less measurable way. Awareness plays a crucial role in any social justice issue. Luckily, this is something anyone and everyone can do. By just talking about it to someone you are spreading information. It may not feel like much, but the more people know, the closer we are to ending the use of child soldiers. So now, I hope to use my position in the media to raise awareness. It’s a small role to play in a bigger issue, but at least I am doing something and that is empowering. 

Caitlin McKay received her B.A.H of Global Development from Queen’s University. She has lived in Ghana, Africa, and has spent time in South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal and Brazil. Her work mainly focuses on human rights, specifically anti-human trafficking advocacy.

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