A decade of conflict in Syria has led to a sharp decline in girls’ rights. This research – carried out in Northwest Syria with Women Now for Development – examines the “invisible” toll that years of war, exacerbated by gender inequality, has taken on girls and young women.
Syria remains one of the world’s most complex humanitarian emergencies where 6.7m people are internally displaced, 90% of the population is now estimated to live below the poverty line and 13.4m people are in need of humanitarian assistance.
Adolescence, defined by the United Nations as covering the age range 10-19 years, is a formative life period during which the foundations and roots for cognition and behavior are further developed and carried far into the future. For many girls in crisis and fragile settings, the onset of puberty marks a time of heightened vulnerability, discrimination and inequality as many are denied education, experience restricted mobility and forced into child marriage. Many girls also have to take on greater responsibilities in the household yet they have little control over economic resources and limited knowledge and ability to participate in decisions affecting their lives. Adolescents in Syria also have grown up navigating the majority of their lives in this conflict and are likely to have experienced significant violence, and lost family and friends to armed conflict or displacement.
Adolescent girls are often invisible during humanitarian emergencies, rarely consulted and their needs are often overlooked. In Syria, adolescents lack meaningful opportunities within their communities and have been missing out on civic and social engagement opportunities.
Failing to address the specific needs and capacities of adolescent girls has major and long-term implications for them and for wider society.