Shanta Karki was barely 13 when she volunteered to be a child soldier for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the Maoists’ military wing in Nepal, in 2003.
She was one of around 3,000 soldiers who were disqualified from the PLA for being an underage combatant when the Maoists signed a ceasefire agreement with the government in 2006, ending a decade-long conflict.
Now 20, Shanta was part of the first batch of former child soldiers to be released from Maoist army cantonments in January 2010. Returning home for the first time since joining the PLA, she will participate in government and
UN rehabilitation programmes (see earlier report), but told IRIN she was unsure of her prospects:
“After seven years of my life with the PLA, I feel very bad for being expelled like this. I have been deprived of helping to liberate my people from this ongoing repression.
“I don’t know whether my family or village will accept me or not. I have yet to find that out.
“I joined the war when I was still in school. I witnessed a lot of repression of the poor [and] this provoked me to do something when I was still a young girl. I have been to the battlefield with a gun. I will continue my life with the Maoists until we have total liberation.
“I’m not keen on rehabilitation. I don’t need rehabilitation. I’m already standing on my own two feet. The UN rehabilitation package is not going to make things better for me. They want to train us to weave baskets and make candles. They want to sponsor my schooling, but I am already educated.
“I don’t want to spend my life making baskets. My ambitions are in politics and in the security sector. After fighting for my people, how can I just weave baskets now?”
“The government should do more to help in the welfare and future of soldiers like us by nationalizing the Nepal Army, and integrating Maoist soldiers into the establishment. They say we’re not qualified, since we work with a Maoist ideology.
“I will continue working as [a] political cadre for my party."
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions