February 12 is Red Hand Day
Learn the story behind Int’l Day Against Child Soldiering
The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers adopted the “red hand” symbol in 1998 as part of its worldwide campaign against child soldiering. February 12, 2002, marks the day the United Nations enacted a treaty banning the use of child soldiers.
This treaty protects children under 18 from being used in armed combat, as nations promised not to recruit or enlist child soldiers — taking every measure of prevention and enacting rescue missions when necessary. While this treaty was initially successful, 250,000+ child soldiers are still enslaved in at least 17 countries.
Why red hands?
Painting hands red symbolizes the blood shed by children forced to commit acts of violence as child soldiers. Children are especially vulnerable to military recruitment because they are too young to resist or defend themselves.
Trafficked. Orphaned. Forced to kill. Exiled from their communities.
Boys and girls as young as 7 — enslaved, forced to fight and kill, and exploited for their bodies and labor.
Many of these children are unprotected by their government and held captive for an average of 3 years. They are used as soldiers, spies, sex slaves, and child soldiers — forced into armed conflict and to complete suicide missions.
In addition to the grave violation of their human rights, child soldiering robs boys and girls of basic needs, education, and stability needed to grow and thrive. Armed groups not only steal their childhood but also destroy any hope for a future in their communities.
No child should know what it feels like to have blood on their hands.
You can make a difference!
❌ Paint social media RED: Paint your hand and post a picture using the hashtag #RedHandDay to educate your community on the violence of child soldiering.
❌ Contact UN leaders: Send your handprint to the UN office in New York with a note advocating for international attention to the child soldiering crisis in DR Congo.
❌ Get your family involved: Simply trace your hands on a blank sheet of paper (or on this downloadable card), add an encouraging note, and mail it to Exile’s offices. We’ll deliver your handprint to a former child soldier who is now becoming a leader for peace — letting them know the Exile family believes in them!
❌ Call your U.S. Representatives: The U.S. can sanction nations condoning child soldiering. With Congolese rebel groups (supported by Rwanda) increasingly active — find your representative and call for more intentional sanctions today.
❌ Champion a child: You can champion a child affected by war — providing education, discipleship, and the tools needed to raise the next generation of peacemakers.
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