Meet Maya*: A Syrian Refugee Advocating for an End to Child Marriage
As coronavirus stretches health systems to their limits in every country, many refugee children are already missing out on treatment that protects them from killer diseases. The pandemic will leave many children without caregivers, out of school and in danger.
In many of the world’s poorest communities, once schooling is interrupted, there’s a real chance that children won’t return. Adolescent girls may be forced into early marriage. And as poverty deepens, children may be forced to work to make ends meet.
3.7 Million Refugee Children Were Already Out of School
Before the pandemic hit, more than half of all refugee children in the world – 3.7 million – were not in school. As a result of school closures due to coronavirus, so many more are now out of school, unable to access any distance learning.
COVID19 must be an opportunity to reach all refugee children to build back better and more resilient education systems that provide ALL children, particularly the most marginalized, a better future.
School Closures Hurt Girls the Most
School closures hurt all children who are affected, but they hurt girls and the poorest children the most. Children from families facing increased poverty are more likely to be forced into child labor or early marriage. Girls are especially likely to drop-out permanently, limiting their lifelong potential.
14-year old Maya* is one of those girls. A Syrian refugee living in living in Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan since 2013, coronavirus threatens to take so much away from Maya. But she has other plans—not only for herself but for girls worldwide.
14-year old Maya is a Syrian refugee who fled home with her family in 2013. She now lives in Za’atari camp in Jordan and proudly advocates for the rights of other children in the camp. Photo credit: Sherbel Dissi / Save the Children, 2020.
Maya and her family fled their home in Syria and are now among the more than 755,000 refugees displaced in Jordan. Besides Lebanon, Jordan hosts more refugees than any other country in the world.
“I remember when I used to go to my grandfather’s house in Syria, but that’s all I remember from Syria,” says Maya.
In Syria alone, 6.6 million people are currently internally displaced. Over 5.6 million people have fled Syria since 2011. Save the Children has been working with children affected by the conflict in Syria since 2012.
Since the outbreak, Maya and her family have been quarantining in their home to protect themselves from the virus. Although she doesn’t leave the house and has stopped going to school, Maya has been able to keep up with her lessons. Through the TV, internet and WhatsApp, she’s continuing to learn—and advocate!
Advocating for an End to Child Marriage
Maya takes part in Save the Children’s ‘Coaching for Life’ project. Through the project, she is learning about advocacy.
“A girl is the most vulnerable [person] in a family,” Maya believes. “She is always quiet and patient. She cannot defend her rights, or express her opinions. For example, when her parents want to buy something new for the house, they consult her mother, her brother and her father, but no-one ever asks her.”
This has compelled Maya to advocate for issues that impact girls like her, including child marriage and child labor.
“We started initiatives, we gave out brochures and we organized awareness sessions for parents,” she says.
A Child’s Right to an Education Does Not End in Times of Emergency
Providing refugees with an opportunity to learn is the building block from humanitarian response to recovery, resilience and long-term development. During displacement the need for safe, quality and inclusive education – for hope for the future – is critical.
Helping Children Learn, Stay Safe, and Return to School
Thanks to the generous support of our donors, Save the Children is providing refugee children like Maya with distance learning programs, resources and guidance for parents on how to support their children’s learning and supporting children to return to school when it’s safe to do so.
We’re also providing essential items like food and soap; and giving cash grants to struggling families to buy crucial supplies for their children. All of this support is possible because of donors.
We urgently need your continued help to keep our relief efforts going. Together, we can ensure every last child has the childhood – and future – they deserve.
*Name changed for protection.
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