Thursday, August 2, 2018

Making Sense of Child Marriage among Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Although comprehensive engagement at the community level is required for meaningful and sustained progress towards addressing child marriage, our analysis suggests that it may be more effective to tailor strategies in a more nuanced and gendered approach.

Child Marriage and Education It is critical to highlight the importance of education as a means to prevent child marriage, especially in humanitarian contexts. Programming after displacement should focus on educational/ awareness campaigns targeting girls and their families from the onset of the response as means to prevent child marriage. For example, campaigns could provide information about different portals that allow refugees to register their children in formal education programs. It is also important that education for girls be framed as a way of increasing future financial stability not only for the girls themselves, but also for their families since our findings suggest that this might resonate more with fathers.

In cases where access and retention in formal education is not possible, programming should also consider non-formal educational options that are context specific and relevant to the specific needs of girls. These can be mainstreamed within or linked to activities provided in women and girls safe space centers as presented in the below section. 

Child Marriage and Protection & Security Protection and security concerns were a key issue across all participant groups. Increased security for women and girls could include the development of sustainable safe space centers, particularly in targeted areas with high rates of child marriage. The centers should provide a safe space for girls to attend a varied range of activities including awareness-raising sessions on topics related to child marriage, psychosocial support, and life skills building. These types of sessions address issues that are key building blocks to girls‘ empowerment. 
Protection and security were also discussed in relation to other factors such as safe access to education and girls’ freedom of movement. Intersectoral efforts to develop joint strategies addressing the unique safety/security concerns in respective communities is urgently required. 
Child Marriage and Financial Resources  Aside from education, creating opportunities for Syrian community members (both women and men) to engage in vocational training and technical skills programs is needed. Such programs are important for building capacity, peer engagement, and creating a sense of belonging, while also providing an opportunity to generate income. As a means to prevent child marriage, such activities should be tailored for both fathers and mothers of underage girls. In addressing gender inequalities, it is vital that economic empowerment not be limited to just men despite the social pressure for men to financially provide for the family. Ideally, age-appropriate economic empowerment activities would also target young girls, thus contributing towards financial independence. 

Comprehensive Interventions with Married Girls Additional holistic interventions should be tailored to support girls who are already married, noting that such programming is often limited by an inadequate understanding of their needs. Programs should be based on evidence that is derived from regular consultations with the girls, thereby increasing their willingness and commitment to access activities and services. Suggested interventions may include: age-appropriate family planning education and services, age-appropriate legal services, accessible consultation for marriage registration, and registration of new births and divorce. Holistic GBV services should also be provided, including case management, sheltering, and psychosocial support.

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