A story about *Amira: "I dream to be a student and to learn how to read and write.
Amira always repeats these same words whenever I visit her. She lives in a tent in a refugee camp, and was in Homs with her husband when the revolution started in Syria. Her husband was an active protestor and was caught and murdered by Syrian soldiers. Afraid, she fled to Lebanon and had to give up everything to live in a tent. It has been eight years since that day and she is now 25 years old. She got married at 13 years old when her husband was 18.
Although she has not received a formal education, Amira is extremely clever and ambitious. "If I turn back time to 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have gotten married so early. I would have liked to go to school and learn - have a job to support myself and any kids I have later on. I feel I’ve aged so fast . I was a child raising a child when my parents decided to marry me off to our neighbour.
The situation in Lebanon
Lebanon has reached important milestones in regards to passing laws that respect human rights, and adopting new legislation that contributes to the promotion of equality between women and men.
As a result of COVID-19, the political and economic situation has become very complicated across the country. Members of parliament were unable to hold meetings, and all developments of new laws were paused, as the priorities for the government were to maintain food security and reduce financial crisis.
Given the challenges, child protection and education remain a priority for us. Sawa for Development runs an education program for girls in the refugee camps, and an English program for Lebanese and Syrian women. We also provided vocational training for 30 girls who dropped out of school to be able to work from home. Some of the classes include beauty and hair dressing.
As the world experiences its largest and most restrictive lockdown, gender-based violence has been on the rise with victims stuck at home. Since quarantine began, more women have been reporting abuse. According to ABAAD, a human rights organisation advocating for gender equality in Lebanon, calls to domestic violence hotlines increased by 110% in March alone, compared to the previous year. Evidence shows that education is one preventive factor that reduces the likelihood of marriage under 18 years. Dropping out of school is also a common outcome of child marriage, reducing the number of years in education for girls. Low educational attainment is both a cause and effect of child marriage. Therefore strengthening education systems to reduce child marriage in Syrian refugee communities is a must.
As Amira puts it simply to me “I will not let my daughter work in the fields. I will not let her be subject to the violence of that life. I want her to be in school”
Her daughter is now 13 and goes to a non-formal education school inside the camp. She wants to grow up to be a nurse so she can care for her family and community. She is not allowed to get married under 18.
published at girlsnotbrideds website