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News Release

May 11, 2006

Treating the Child Soldier Focus of Smith College Conference

Editor’s note: Because the June 9 conference requires registration, members of the media must notify the News Office to be able to attend at no cost. Others interested in registering, should go online to

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—Human Rights Watch leader Jo Becker will deliver the opening address at “Children in Armed Conflict,” a daylong conference June 9 about treating the growing population of refugee and immigrant children and families from war-afflicted areas.

Organized by the Smith College School for Social Work, the conference will examine the global nature of children’s involvement in armed conflicts, the impact on their communities and cultures and the resettlement of refugee populations.

Becker will deliver her address, “Nature of Children’s Forced Involvement in Armed Conflict,” at 8:45 a.m.; Michael Wessells, senior child protection specialist for Christian Children’s Fund, will deliver a keynote address on “Child Soldier Reintegration” at 1 p.m. Both lectures will take place in the Carroll Room, Campus Center.

In addition, throughout the day in various workshops, social service practitioners and researchers will reflect on successful strategies for treating a population that has experienced extreme violence.

Smith faculty member Joanne Corbin of the School for Social Work, spearheaded the conference. Corbin studies the resettlement experiences of child soldiers in the African nation of Uganda.

Jo Becker, opening speaker

As children's rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, Becker works to end abuses against children, including the use of children as soldiers, hazardous child labor, and poor treatment during detention. Becker was also the founding chairperson of the international Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers and campaigned successfully for an international treaty banning the forced recruitment and use in armed conflict of children under age 18.

Becker has conducted field investigations to document child recruitment in Burma, Northern Uganda and Sri Lanka. She serves on the steering committee of the U.S. Campaign to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers and has testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding the international treaty banning the forced recruitment of children or their use in combat.

Michael Wessells, keynote speaker

Wessells is professor of clinical population and family health at Columbia University and professor of psychology at Randolph-Macon College. He currently co-chairs a U.N. Task Force on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings.

His research on children and armed conflict examines child soldiers, psychosocial assistance in emergencies and post-conflict reconstruction for peace.  He regularly advises U. N. agencies, donors and governments on the situation of children in armed conflict and on issues regarding child protection and well-being.  In countries such as Afghanistan, Angola, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Sri Lanka, East Timor, Kosova and South Africa, he helps to develop community-based, culturally grounded programs that assist children, families and communities affected by armed conflict.

For more information on the workshops that will be held throughout the day, go online to

Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Kristen Cole
Media Relations Director
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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