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12.03.2018 - News

Syrian refugees in Jordan: Fatma says no to child marriage

Seven years of war in Syria have taken their toll on the lives of millions of young Syrian refugees. Seeking shelter in neighbouring countries, they face extremely precarious situations. The number of girls leaving school and becoming child brides is on the rise. Fatma, who lives in Jordan, was almost one of these girls. Thanks to Terre des hommes (Tdh), she learned that marriage could wait.

When 17-year-old Fatma describes her life before taking part in Tdh’s activities, she sums it up in a single word: “Bad”. She lived in southern Syria, before the war forced her, her mother, and her four brothers and sisters to leave the country. She arrived at the UAE-Jordanian refugee camp in 2013, when she was just a child. In 2016, when she turned 15, her family engaged her to be married.

Fatma’s wedding was scheduled to take place one year later. However, before becoming a bride, she took part in child protection workshops run by Tdh. These activities teach young refugees about their rights and the dangers of early marriage and child labour. It was here that she learnt that she was not legally old enough to be married. “In my community, I didn’t know my rights, no one told me. I thought that’s all a woman’s life was – getting married and having babies. Now I know my what my rights are.”

Making an informed choice, Fatma broke off her engagement. Her family was not pleased. Her brother in particular was furious, but she stuck to her decision. “Education is more important than marriage. How can you educate your children if you don’t know how to read or write?”

A brilliant student

Fatma is aiming high. “We need engineers and doctors to rebuild our country. The future depends on the young generations. What will happen if all the women stay at home?”

Her family eventually accepted her decision. Now, Fatma’s mother is proud of how well her daughter is doing at school. As for Fatma, her outlook on life has changed completely. “When I was 15, I thought my future was getting married and staying at home. Now I know that 15 is the perfect age to start studying and building my life.”

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*The name of the child was changed to protect her privacy.

Photo credit: ©Tdh