Thank You, Deeply

Dear Women & Girls Community,

We are excited to share our plans for the future of women and girls’ coverage at News Deeply.

In January 2018, our Women & Girls page will close as we launch the first of a new set of dedicated platforms that will allow us to dive deeper into the biggest issues affecting women and girls in the developing world.

This first platform – Women’s Advancement Deeply – will cover the pursuit of economic equality for women, from securing gender-equal access to financial services, to fighting for property rights and closing the pay gap.

We’ll also be working to launch other dedicated platforms in this space, and we are currently exploring themes of maternal, sexual and reproductive health, as well as gender-based violence. If these topics are of interest to you, please let us know here – we would love your input as we shape new initiatives.

Our trove of existing Women & Girls coverage will remain available through an archived version of the site, allowing you to explore and reference our published articles dating back to May 2016

Thank you for being part of the Women & Girls community. We look forward to having you join us in our new endeavors in this space.

Sincerely,

Lara Setrakian, CEO and Co-founder, News Deeply
Megan Clement, Managing Editor, Women & Girls, News Deeply

Photo Essay: Zaatari Youths Tackle Child Marriage

To mark World Population Day, we take a look at the young Syrian boys and girls in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp who, like their peers in Lebanon, are on a mission to cut the number of early marriages rife among their friends. Pictures and text supplied by UNFPA.

Written by Jumana Farouky Published on Read time Approx. 5 minutes
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Through a joint peer-to-peer program run by the UNFPA and Jordan's Institute for Family Health, young Syrians like Saba at the Zaatari refugee camp are teaching others about the benefits of education and employment. "We give awareness sessions to girls in schools," says Saba. "You should see their incentive to stay in school and to study compared to what happens to those who drop out and start a family. It’s a different life."Sima Diab/UNFPA

Saba’s smile can brighten a whole room – or, at least, the caravan in Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, where the 16-year-old Syrian lives with her mother and four siblings.

Eloquent and outspoken, Saba explains her opposition to early marriage, glancing at her mother, Izdihar, for support. “A girl I know got married last year when she was 15 and went to school with me. Now she is now married and is a month or two pregnant,” says Saba, whose father is still in Syria. “Three months ago, she was pregnant with twins, but had a miscarriage. I told her she should stop because her body isn’t ready yet, but she and her husband are insisting to have a child.”

Saba's mother, Izdihar, helps her convince families not to marry off their young daughters. "Despite the circumstances and the pressures, education is the priority," says Izdihar. "Education is a weapon, a diploma is a weapon." (Sima Diab/UNFPA)
Saba’s mother, Izdihar, helps her convince families not to marry off their young daughters. “Despite the circumstances and the pressures, education is the priority,” says Izdihar. “Education is a weapon, a diploma is a weapon.” (Sima Diab/UNFPA)

Child marriage has long been accepted practice in Syria where, prior to the conflict, 13 percent of Syrian women aged 20 to 25 were married before they turned 18. But in Syrian refugee communities, the social pressure and living conditions are accelerating the rate of early marriage among young Syrian girls; mainly, say Saba and her mother, because it means one less mouth to feed in a family. “Girls back in Syria sometimes married young, too, but we see it happening much more frequently here,” says Izdihar, who married at age 19.

“They say, ‘Let the girl get married, let her husband spend on her,’” says Saba, with a sigh.

Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan is home to over 79,000 displaced Syrians. (Sima Diab/UNFPA)
Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan is home to over 79,000 displaced Syrians. (Sima Diab/UNFPA)

But Saba and her mother are trying to stop the trend, with help from the joint Y-Peer program between the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which marks World Population Day on July 11, and Jordan’s Institute for Family Health. Working with young people around the world, the Y-Peer (Youth Peer) network gives boys and girls information about reproductive health and rights, and empowers them to share what they have learned with other young people in their community.

Saba, with her younger sister, says the stress and circumstances of living as refugees increases the chances of child marriage for young Syrians in the Zaatari camp. "The family has a big role in the decision, as many parents tell their children that marriage is a better destiny for them in the middle of this uncertainty we are living in," she says. (Sima Diab/UNFPA)
Saba, with her younger sister, says the stress and circumstances of living as refugees increases the chances of child marriage for young Syrians in the Zaatari camp. “The family has a big role in the decision, as many parents tell their children that marriage is a better destiny for them in the middle of this uncertainty we are living in,” she says. (Sima Diab/UNFPA)

Saba and Izdihar are among a group of active advocates at Zaatari camp who are reaching out to young men and women, and their mothers and fathers, to explain the benefits of continuing with education and delaying married life.

“Our children must get an education,” says Izdihar. “Many youngsters in the camp do not go to school because they feel they have no future, or the chances to go to university or find a job are very slim. But several humanitarian organizations are working on allowing at least some education, and we should all grab this opportunity.”

Saba's mother, Izdihar, pictured here with her younger daughter, was married at 19, but continued with her education. Now she uses her experience to explain to young people why they should get their diplomas. (Sima Diab/UNFPA)
Saba’s mother, Izdihar, pictured here with her younger daughter, was married at 19, but continued with her education. Now she uses her experience to explain to young people why they should get their diplomas. (Sima Diab/UNFPA)

Saba gives awareness sessions to young people her age, explaining the consequences of marriage and early pregnancy on the bodies and lives of women. She extols the advantages of delaying marriage: getting an education; having a healthier, stronger body; finding a job that fosters independence.

Her main challenges are the social and cultural differences between Syrians who now all live together in the huge camp, which houses over 79,000 refugees. Coming from different parts of Syria, with diverse cultural groups and all levels of society, many of the people Saba is trying to reach have different expectations for their daughters’ futures.

"Getting pregnant at a young age can be very dangerous for a girl because her body is really weak and not yet ready to carry a baby," says Saba. "Miscarriages are frequent, but the girls keep trying until they have a baby." As a Y-Peer advocate, Saba shares with her friends what she learns about health and reproductive rights. (Sima Diab/UNFPA)
“Getting pregnant at a young age can be very dangerous for a girl because her body is really weak and not yet ready to carry a baby,” says Saba. “Miscarriages are frequent, but the girls keep trying until they have a baby.” As a Y-Peer advocate, Saba shares with her friends what she learns about health and reproductive rights. (Sima Diab/UNFPA)

She also has to fight against the marriage fantasy that teenage girls are sold from a very young age. They often can’t see beyond the wedding dress and the party, she says.

“After the party, they will no longer see their friends, they will stop going to school, they will stop playing, being creative, drawing,” she says. “They will have responsibilities and start washing dishes.”

Her goal is to get young girls to realize the sacrifices they make – educational, financial, emotional and physical – by marrying too young. “The saddest thing I see is physical abuse,” she says. “The man being mean to his young bride.”

"The girls who are in schools are the ones most likely not to get married," says Saba. "When a girl gets an education and a diploma, she has a chance to get a good job, instead of a husband who controls her." (Sima Diab/UNFPA)
“The girls who are in schools are the ones most likely not to get married,” says Saba. “When a girl gets an education and a diploma, she has a chance to get a good job, instead of a husband who controls her.” (Sima Diab/UNFPA)

This photo essay was published in collaboration with the UNFPA to mark World Population Day on July 11.

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