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"I went because I wanted to get enough money to go back to school." Similar accounts were given by dozens of girls we interviewed in South and North Kivu and Haut-Uéle, pushed into conflict because of financial hardships at home.It is estimated that only 60 percent of girls complete primary school education (compared to eight in 10 boys)."So many girls accept and continue to live with their bush husband." Child Soldiers International’s research reveals these issues of stigma and community rejection as the main hurdles in reintegrating many girls formerly associated with armed groups in the country.

MONUSCO has said that non-state armed groups, including various Mai-Mai groups, were responsible for almost 70 percent of the cases.We walked for two days." However, the hope of earning money or being protected by armed groups would never materialise.Physical and sexual abuse, combat, hard labour and constant fear of death are common realities for children and teenagers within Congo's armed groups.As a result, some decide to rejoin the very armed groups that abused them."If we leave the group, we're going to be targeted, rejected," one girl told me.

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