Marrying a child is stealing her childhood.
Too many girls are married before the age of 18. Most of the time, they are forced into an alliance that they have not chosen. Dropping out of school or violence at home are some of the challenges and negative consequences they face. Terre des hommes works in Jordan and Lebanon to protect young refugee girls from early marriage and support those already married.
To better tackle the issue of early marriage among refugee girls, we have partnered with Dr Aisha Hutchinson, a social worker from the University of Bedfordshire in the United-Kingdom, to conduct a three-year research focusing on girls who are married before 18. The research seeks to better understand the process and experience these girls go through while living in refugee communities. To do so, Dr Aisha Hutchinson runs interviews and focus groups with girls, boys, parents and religious leaders – in both Jordan and Lebanon. She addresses the issues of early marriage and explores the protective factors that could reduce the risks girls face in such situations.
Why do parents marry their daughters at an early age?
Research suggests that multiple factors push parents to marry their daughters at a young age, including poverty, gender inequality and a lack of education. A number of reports suggest that the Syrian crisis has led to a significant increase in the number of child marriages. For refugee families – especially large families – marrying their daughters is a financial relief and is perceived as a protective measure. Indeed, parents believe girls will be provided for and protected by their husbands and in-laws. Unfortunately, reality is rarely that simple.
Child marriage equals stolen childhood
Girls that get married too early usually drop out of school. 15-year old Maya accepted the marriage proposal from her mother because they lived in poverty with three siblings and an absent father, and because the family of her husband would allow her to go to school. However, the school declined her application because of her marital status.
Many young, married couples live in cramped conditions together with the husband’s family. Violence at home, early and risky pregnancy, and depression are among the problems girls regularly face. On top of this, additional insecurity emerges in regards to newborns care. A girl told us she didn’t like her baby as it came from a forced marriage. We helped her accept her daughter and look after her. Another boy was hitting his young wife when the baby was crying.
What do we do to support these young girls?
To address these dramatic issues and prevent early marriage, we work together with sheiks – religious leaders with an influential position in the communities – who have committed to spreading child protection messages. They discuss topics such as violence against children and early-marriage with their congregations and have already addressed more than 13,000 people.
We empower girls by informing them about their rights and the use of contraception, we reinforce their skills (including in child care if they already have children) and support networks against early marriage. Additionally, we support families to set up income-generating activities to prevent them from the need of marrying their daughters for economic reasons.
Surviving early marriage and war: The 18 year old girl introduces herself as an early marriage “survivor”. She has already referred many cases of early-married girls to Tdh in Lebanon.
Lely, early married girl that had to flee SyriaRead more...