International Women's Summit on Human Rights, Peace, and Democracy
Jolly Andruvile, former child soldier, helps child soldiers and sex slaves
It was a privilege to be present as seven phenomenally courageous women spoke from their firsthand experience in conflict zones around the world -- Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kenya, and Uganda. We will report the stories of these women just one or two at a time, starting today with Jolly Grace Okot Andruvile of Uganda.
Jolly (pronounced like the French "jolie"), now CEO of Invisible Children Uganda and President of WENDAfrica, touched on her experience as a child soldier in Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army. She escaped after two years and arranged her father's escape as well, but the LRA retaliated by killing 21 members of her immediate family. "I consider myself fortunate," she said, humbling everyone present. "I was abducted and held for just two years, and when I escaped, I had no children. I didn't even have HIV." Against all odds, she rebuilt her life and consecrated herself to helping others rebuild theirs. She negotiated directly with Joseph Kony to secure the release of more than 20 child soldiers. Today, her two nonprofits work with children and women, respectively, helping them to recover, overcome shame and trauma, go to school (children), or learn skills to support the children they were forced to bear (women). This is not easy. Nearly one in twenty former child soldiers commit suicide after their release. Today, Invisible Children Uganda supports and educates more than 200 children, while WENDAfrica helps more than 20 women send their children to school -- the school the mothers themselves missed.