Girls at the front
: an exploration of the relationship between human rights education policy and the experiences of girls taken by the militia in northern Uganda‘s civil war

  • Elaine Chapman Halsall

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This study explores human rights education policy as it relates to the experiences of twenty-four girls taken by militia during the protracted armed conflict in northern Uganda. The study was concerned with understanding the experiences of girls in war zones and how their ability to achieve basic human rights was affected. To understand the participants‘ experiences it was essential to be aware of the context in which they lived. A situational field analysis (2005), and a socio-historical political literature review was conducted to serve this purpose. A field study (2006), centered on the premise that those who do not know their rights and responsibilities are more vulnerable to having them abused, was subsequently completed.

The primary purpose of the study was to explore the current thinking and methods best suited to human rights learning in a specific contextual condition, namely armed civil conflict. The study aimed to develop meaningful and innovative methodological insights and findings for human rights learning, to better understand and improve the dissemination, promotion, and protection of human rights. The relationship between human rights learning and participants‘ experiences was examined within the boundaries of a feminist research methodology, using a variety of data collection tools, including art-based inquiry, and provides an analysis of the issues related to human rights learning for girls in conflict situations.

The key findings in this study suggest that if human rights learning is to move beyond a school-based, rote learned appreciation of rights, an alternate, contextualized and empowering human rights learning framework which enhances a girl‘s capacity to communicate and exercise her rights is required. Such a framework needs to explore contextual values and attitudes, be responsive to participants‘ experiences, and provide an opportunity to critically examine both rights and responsibilities.
Date of Award2010
Original languageEnglish

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