What’s it like being a girl in a refugee crisis?

By: 
CARE
This International Day of the Girl, a new CAREreport reveals which refugee crises around the world are most dangerous for girls

When war, conflict, violence, hunger, or climate events drive you from your home, it’s a terrible experience for anyone. But if you’re a girl, you are also:

  • the first to be trafficked for sex or child labour
  • the first to be exploited as a tool of war
  • the first to experience sexual violence or to be raped
  • the last to be fed
  • the last to be enrolled in school

In a refugee crisis, girls are too often the first to lose their childhoods, and the last to be valued.

More than 17 million girls have been displaced from their homes amid the global refugee crisis.

In conflict-ravaged areas of South Sudan, as many as two-thirds of women and girls have suffered physical or sexual violence.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram is four times more likely to deploy girl bombers than boys.

In Yemen, more than two-thirds of girls are married off before they turn 18.

In Afghanistan, some 3.7 million children do not go to school, and in some provinces as much as 85 percent of them are girls.

Find out which refugee crises are most dangerous for girls in CARE’s new report Far From Home.

But while they may be far from home, displaced girls are far from helpless. They are strong, smart, resilient, courageous and determined to break through the barriers holding them back, despite staring down some of the most difficult circumstances on earth.

Five years ago, Marwa and her family fled to Jordan from Syria. Life as refugees has been difficult. Aged only 10, Marwa found work at a hair salon for a few dollars a day, sweeping up hair, mopping the floor, and making tea and coffee. She says:

Every morning I would leave home at 6am and wouldn’t return until 6pm. My boss was not treating me very nicely, but I had to withstand that situation because I needed the work to help provide for my family.

Refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school than other children, and refugee girls like Marwa are two and a half times more likely to be out of school than boys. Marwa says:

I missed two years of school because of displacement in Syria, and because of work here. When I saw girls going to school, I felt upset because I could not go.

But Marwa is defying the odds. She’s traded her broom for a book and the salon for the classroom. Thanks to her resolve — and an aid programme which provides her family with $100 a month as an incentive to keep children in school — she just completed her third year back in class. And despite all she has been through and must still face as a refugee in a foreign land, she has big dreams for the future:

I feel passionate about becoming a lawyer because I want to defend oppressed people. My family and I, and many people like us, have endured so much oppression for years, and I want to stand up for us and for people like us. Or I want to become an aeronautical engineer because I like flying and because, as an engineer, I can help rebuild my country when we return one day.

Refugee girls are capable of amazing feats, especially if they have the right tools and support. Read more in CARE’s new report Far From Home.

CARE USA, which produced the report, has launched a petition for CARE supporters in the USA, calling on Congress to protect U.S. foreign assistance that saves lives and equips girls with the tools they need to overcome the threats routinely faced in emergencies. Find out more about the petition here.

CARE's picture

News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.