How Lely survived early marriage and war
Lely* got married when she was 15 and became a refugee when she was 16. When she fled Syria to find refuge in Lebanon, the young girl found it hard to adapt to her new life. “I became a stranger in a country I didn’t know, everything was different from my old life.” Since Lely has engaged in protection activities with Terre des hommes (Tdh), she feels her life has improved.
Like a high number of Syrian families, Lely, her husband, parents and seven younger brothers and sisters have been forced to flee their home. The eleven family members live in a small house in Lebanon that consists of two rooms. Due to their displacement, Lely left school and has to work in agriculture to support her family.
Lely got identified when a Tdh community worker asked her to attend the youth group. “I am married and can’t be a youth member anymore, I’ve become a woman”, she answered. The community worker discussed with Lely about her age, and convinced her family that she had the right like any other child to attend those group’s activities. Since then, she has never missed any sessions on child protection, child rights, violence and early marriage. She has regained self-confidence after the trauma of war and her early marriage.
The young girl is now 18 years old and introduces herself as an early marriage “survivor” to other youth members. She shares the reasons why her parents married her at an early age and talks about the consequences. Although she understands the situation in which her family was at the time, she is aware of all the things she missed out in her childhood and recognises that her rights had not been respected.
Today, Lely has become a reference on child protection matters in her community. She carries on key messages on child protection, gender-based violence and early marriage to her peers. In addition, she has already referred many cases of early-married girls to Tdh in Lebanon.
*Name has been changed
Photo credit: © Tdh/Ollivier Girard