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Supporting Girls’ Education in Crisis on World Refugee Day

The unprecedented global displacement crisis is only getting worse

Every day, on the news, we hear about tragic stories of people whose lives have been forever altered due to conflicts and crises in their home country. The frequency of this news could make us immune to the seriousness of the situation. On this World Refugee Day, the figures released this week by the UNHCR remind us of the extent of the crisis and that this global challenge demands a global solution.

At the end of 2017, a record number of 68.5 million people had been forcibly displaced from their homes (UNHCR).

An estimated 52% of these refugees are under the age of 18. Many refugee youth struggle to see a positive future for themselves, trapped in refugee camps or urban settings where their legal status is precarious and where they are disempowered from accessing opportunities for education and employment.

Girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out-of-school in crises

For many refugee youth, education is out of reach. Only 61% of refugee children attend primary school, compared with 91% globally. The barriers only get more entrenched as children get older: just 1% of refugee youth have access to post-secondary education, compared to 36% globally.

Girls face additional barriers to education. They often shoulder an unfair burden of household responsibilities, which can be worsened by displacement as families become separated. They also confront gender-based violence at home, at school, and in the community. Due to this double discrimination, girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out-of-school in crises.

Girls’ education is key for a brighter future

Education helps girls develop their literacy, numeracy, and life skills, while building their self-confidence to achieve their aspirations and advocate for their rights. It is the best tool they can have to create a brighter future for themselves, their families, and their communities. Research shows that for every additional year that a girl is in school, her income increases by 10 to 20% (Unicef).

In refugee contexts, girls’ education also lays the groundwork for a peaceful and prosperous future. When women are included in peace processes, there is a 35 percent increase in the probability of an agreement lasting at least 15 years (UN Women). Education is key to preparing all young refugees to engage in the peacebuilding process, once they are able to return to their country of origin.

WUSC is working with over 20,000 girls in East Africa to get the education they deserve

In Kenya, we are supporting over 20,000 marginalized refugee and host community girls to access education. Our initiatives help keep girls in school, ensure that they are learning while they are there, and rally the support of their communities to encourage them to stay in school.

Now just past the five year mark, we have already seen many positive changes. For example, more families now believe that education helps girls make a better life for themselves. A recent survey found that only 2% of caregivers in our target regions felt that it was “unusual” for people in their community to send girls to school.

However, there are still ingrained social norms that prevent girls from succeeding in education; nearly half of all caregivers felt it is acceptable for a girl to not go to school if she is getting married, is already married, or has a child. Though much more remains to be done, we anticipate seeing more positive change as we engage community members through radio programming and community events on these specific issues.

Another positive change over the past five years, we are seeing that the majority of girls in our cohort are successfully progressing in school: 82% have moved to the next grade level. We are seeing the benefits of this accomplishment through our Student Refugee Program, which provides resettlement and post-secondary education opportunities to refugee youth. During our most recent recruitment in Kenya, we finally reached gender parity among applicants with young women representing 53% of the total number of candidates who made it to the interview stage.

Let’s achieve more for refugee girls’ education together this World Refugee Day

The world’s seven largest advanced economies have recently announced a financial commitment of $3.8B at the G7 Summit in Charlevoix, Quebec, to educate and empower girls in developing countries. This commitment will help meet the urgent, global need to help get the 130 million girls who are currently out of school back into the classroom and learning.

This World Refugee Day, and every day, WUSC continues to work to create safe and supportive environments for refugee girls’ education that support their dreams and help them to reach their full potential.

You can help by raising awareness on the importance of girls’ education and by making a donation in support of WUSC’s work around the world.

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