This 15-Year-Old Syrian Girl Is Campaigning Against Child Marriage in Her Refugee Camp

This 15-Year-Old Syrian Girl Is Campaigning Against Child Marriage in Her Refugee Camp


May 4, 2016

This 15-year-old Syrian girl is campaigning against child marriage by offering drawing and acting classes to her peers in the Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan.

Omaima Hoshan hopes she will be able to discourage them from making the mistake of marrying too early.

"Their bodies are not ready for childbirth, and emotionally they are not ready to be wives and mothers," she said in an interview adding, "A mother is like a school, so if she is prepared, then her children will be prepared.”

A recent feature by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees tells Omaima's inspirational story. When she got to the sprawling camp in 2012, 11-year-old Omaima was not aware of the issue of child marriage. But as she entered the sixth grade, she started hearing about girls as young as 12 and 13 getting married.

Then some of her classmates started vanishing.

"They would come to the school to say goodbye. I remember thinking they were making a big mistake, even before I knew the facts," she said.

In pre-war Syria, 13 percent of marriages included someone below the age of 18. But now according to the UNHCR, the rate rose to 32 percent among Syrian refugees in Jordan by the first quarter of 2014.

Under Jordanian law you must be at least 18 years of age to marry. Although Shari'a judges can authorize marriages with girls as young as 15 years and local sheikhs can conduct illegal marriages with girls even younger.

When her best friend Basma was married before her 14th birthday, Omaima realized she had to do something to help girls escape the same fate as her best friend.

Now Omaima works as an outreach volunteer with a child protection group in the camp run by Save the Children. She teaches drawing and acting classes to communicate the issues surrounding child marriage.

"I feel proud that I'm doing something to help other girls and address this problem," she said.

NEXT: 4 Influential American Women Who You Didn't Know Were Refugees »

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Photo Credit: Newsweek Middle East/Twitter

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