Since its opening in 2015, over 1,800 young women and men in Zaatari refugee camp have benefitted from trainings on reproductive health and gender-based violence at the Questscope-UNFPA Youth Centre. This is the story of 16-year-old Yanal, who became an advocate against child marriage after learning about its harms at the UNFPA-supported youth centre in Zaatari.
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During the mapathon hosted by UNFPA on September 28, over 6,000 volunteers in over 60 countries mapped more than 49,000 buildings and nearly 7,000 kilometres of roads – generating data that will help a range of FGM-related services and outreach programmes reach the girls, families and communities that need them most.
“When I was young, I did not want to be cut,” said Aissata Camara, speaking at the High-Level Panel on Female Genital Mutilation, held during the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly. “I am one of those 200 million girls who have been cut,” said the Guinean-American activist and co-founder of the There Is No Limit Foundation. “I am here to speak for the 68 million that are now at risk.” Female genital mutilation (FGM) is routinely practiced in 25 countries. In 2015, an estimated 3.9 million girls were cut.
In the wake of the migration crisis and other humanitarian emergencies, women and girls are experiencing unconscionable trauma. Gender-based violence – including child marriage and forced pregnancy – exploitation, and trafficking often escalate during conflict, threatening the lives and well-being of women and girls around the world. Women and children account for roughly 75 per cent of those displaced by conflict. About 20 per cent are women of reproductive age.
Trends in child marriage Over the past decade, child marriage has continued to decline. Globally, the proportion of young women who were married as children decreased by 15 per cent, from 1 in 4 to about 1 in 5.
Two years ago, 16-year-old Salia Shemsu waited to be married off. Like many young girls in Ethiopia, it was only a matter of time before she would need to leave her family for a husband. Then an opportunity she never expected arrived. A local announcement called for young people to join an entrepreneurship programme. Salia responded immediately. Salia’s district is among 30 in Ethiopia where a joint UNFPA-UNICEF programme is now empowering vulnerable adolescent girls and boys to support themselves and make healthy decisions – by providing them with the knowledge and skills to do so.
Girls living with disabilities often have fewer opportunities to engage with the broader world than boys. In April, UNFPA began working with the Special Olympics to create opportunities for adolescent girls to play and learn. The project will provide sports activities for both girls with disabilities and those without. The participants will also learn about their reproductive health and their human rights.
While the number of child marriages occurring among Syrian refugees in Iraq is not available, research conducted among Syrian refugees elsewhere suggests a link between the poverty and instability facing displaced families like Aysheh’s, and rising pressure for girls to get married. Feeling helpless, Aysheh sought help from the UNFPA-supported Zahrat Al-Yasamin women’s social centre in the camp.
Girls around the world lack basic knowledge about their sexual and reproductive health and struggle to access menstrual health supplies. Many grapple with shame and taboos surrounding menstruation. These issues undermine girls’ health and rights. Girls can be subjected to stigma or miss school due to difficulty managing their menstrual hygiene. These concerns are being addressed at this week’s Menstrual Health Management Symposium in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The Government of Zambia, the Government of Canada, UNICEF, UNFPA and UN Women convened a United Nations General Assembly High Level side event to advocate for accelerating the Common African Position (CAP) on Ending Child Marriage.