“My name is Maisa. I am from Syria, from the city of Idlib.
Before the civil war, we were living a happy life in Idlib.
When I was a child in Syria, I was going to school. Thankfully, I never missed a single year. From 1st grade to 6th grade.
When I would get home from school, I would go play with my friends. And when I would go back home, my mom would have dinner on the table. As soon as I would finish dinner, I would go back to play with my friends. I was living a really beautiful and happy life in Syria.
When the civil war broke out, we sought refuge in Lebanon. That was in 2013, we have been here for 6 years.
When I turned 15 years old, I got married.
After 6 months, because of serious marital problems, this led to my decision to get a divorce.
The problems I dealt with were not easy.
After I got divorced, my life became even more difficult than when I was married.
I want to give a message to every girl out there: do not get married until you are at least 20.
For every girl that is still young, live your childhood and do not grow up faster than you need to.
I wish I never got married.
My dream is to continue my education and make a difference in this world, and in my life.”
“My name is Hanan.
I am 16 years old and I’m from Syria.
When I was in Syria, I was in school.
I was able to go play with my friends and I was very happy.
When I came to Lebanon, I was no longer allowed to study or see my friends, my neighbours, or get together with anyone.
When I got married I was 13 years old.
And I had a really big responsibility.
I could not handle the cooking or the housework. It was a huge responsibility.
I used to look at my friends, and wish I could return to the days of childhood again.
My dream now is to finish my education and become a doctor.
I want to give a message to every girl out there: focus on your education and the goals you have set for yourself.
Do not leave your education at an early age. Keep up a sense of ambition.”
The situation for Syrian refugees in Lebanon
Maisa and Hanah are living in a refugee community in Lebanon. They receive support from Girls Not Brides member SB Overseas. SB Overseas runs education programmes to help young refugees get back into the school system. They also run educational support programmes for older children, awareness sessions and psychological support sessions for children and young people. They also teach women vocational skills so they can support themselves and their families, and distribute clothing and aid. Visit their website to learn more.
Since the war broke out in Syria, child marriage rates have risen sharply. Before the war, child marriage did happen. But conflict has exacerbated many of the factors that push families into marrying their daughters off, such as insecurity, poverty and lack of education. In just three years from 2011 to 2014, child marriage rates increased almost threefold. Learn more about how conflict and disasters push girls into child marriage.
In the time it has taken to read this article 34 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 3 seconds
Girls Not Brides
Ettie is Communications Associate at Girls Not Brides: the Global Partnership to End Child Marriage.