Little is known about the short and long term effects of war on youth. Yet without an understanding of who is at risk of violence (and from whom), the factors that affect violence and acceptance, a sense of the long-term impacts of war violence, and a strong grasp of the factors that protect youth, how can we design more effective prevention, protection, rehabilitation and reintegration programs?
While little is known about war affected male youth, less still is known about women and girls. What seems clear, however, is that their experiences of abuse, abduction, violence and return have differed sharply from that of men and boys. Youth have been both the primary victims and the primary actors in the twodecade long war in northern Uganda. Yet, while we know that youth have suffered (and continue to do so), we have not been able to answer with confidence some crucial questions: who is suffering, how much, and in what ways? While we know that youth made up the bulk of both victims and perpetrators, we have little sense of the magnitude, incidence, and nature of the violence, trauma and suffering.
The state of knowledge regarding women and girls is especially lacking. One consequence of this lack of knowledge is that programming is often based on immediate and observable needs and possibly erroneous assumptions about who needs help and what sort of help ought to be provided.
With only rough measures of well-being at our disposal, a second consequence is unavoidably crude targeting of services. Those providing services are extremely conscious of the limitations of this approach, but in responding to the emergency have been unable to conduct the kind of evidence-based programming they would like to see undertaken. The purpose of SWAY is to work with field professionals to generate new and better programming based on in-depth data and investigation.