Designing for children in armed groups

February 12 is International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers. UNICEF estimates that 19,000 children are used by armed forces and armed groups in South Sudan.

“Being honest, I personally wasn’t aware of just how many children this issue affects,” says Josh McKenna. He is one of the eight artists making animated Instagram stickers to raise awareness on the use of children by armed forces and armed groups. This is the first time UNICEF has worked with designers in this way.


Josh McKenna

Josh chose a bold design to highlight what these children are missing out on. “I wanted to portray a simple child’s playground-game of hopscotch as something more appropriately connected to childhood than guns and violence.”

© Josh McKeena@jshmck

Pink Lemonade

© Pink Lemonade@the.pinklemonade

Designer Silja Summanen was intrigued by the format of an Instagram sticker to raise awareness on the many children in the ranks of armed groups. “I think it’s a great global way to bring people together to show support for an important matter … these illustrations on a quotidian platform are easily approachable and bring the issue to the thinking of many people.”


Chocomoo is a Japanese illustrator known for creating feelgood pieces, even when the topic is serious. “My thinking behind the design is that all children are our treasures.”

© Chocomoo@yukachocomoo

Since the conflict started in South Sudan in 2013, UNICEF has supported the release of over 3,000 children from armed groups. After release, the children are enrolled in a comprehensive reintegration programme including education and psychosocial support, to help them start building a new future.

Joni Majer

“I think the GIF is nice to look at, a bit of magic. But it still shows how wrong a gun is in a child’s hands, where they should be holding a pencil or their mama’s hand,” says Joni Majer. The artist has in a playful way tried to visualize what needs to be done to give these children a future.

© Joni Majer@jonimajer

Benedetto Demaio

What made Benedetto Demaio excited about designing Instagram stickers for the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers, was the opportunity to contribute to a cause she is passionate about.

“I’m a teacher. Every day I get in touch with children ranging from 10 to 14 years old and I really care about their future; I work in every moment for drawing their life plan and making it achievable. Joining this UNICEF project is one of the ways I have to make it come true.”

© Benedetto Demaio@benedettodemaio

Julie Audouard

“I love when my art can contribute to something important. In my job I’m not changing [the] world, I’m not saving people, but I can help in making people aware of what is wrong through strong and engaging visuals,” says Julie Audouard about her contribution.

© Julie Aoudouard@j.audz

“I really hope they help to make the difference. I’d love to see the stickers inspire people to support the children and share their personal wishes for a better childhood and future,” says Silja Summanen.

Stefan Mosebach

© Stefan Mosefback@stefan_mosebach

“I hope together we can create a lot of awareness and support, so more children can start to live a child’s life,” Joni concludes.


Help us raise awareness by using these stickers in your next Instagram story. Here’s how:

A graphic illustration with instructions on how to use animated stickers on Instagram stories.


Helene Sandbu Ryeng is a Communication Specialist in the Programme Section at UNICEF, South Sudan.

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