Congolese girls dating

"The Mai-Mai were doing bad things all the time," one girl explained. It became so frightening and impossible to live at home.

To protect ourselves, me and five others, three girls and two boys, decided to join them.

Many will give birth to children of their own, often under very difficult circumstances.

"We were treated like toys," a 15-year-old girl said.

"Sexual violence is a brutal form of physical and psychological warfare rooted in the gender inequality existent not only in zones of conflict, but in our everyday personal lives,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a report published to mark the day.

"We heard that we could get money there," 15-year-old Judith* told us.

This inability to attend school was a factor in many girls' decisions to join armed groups; self-defence militias (known locally as Mai-Mai), Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army and the M23 among them.

"I was pushed out of school because my parents could not pay," 16-year-old Sara explained.

The UN's Population Fund reported 2,593 cases of sexual violence in “conflict-affected provinces” during the same period.

MONUSCO has said that non-state armed groups, including various Mai-Mai groups, were responsible for almost 70 percent of the cases.

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