Child marriage is a truly global problem that cuts across countries, cultures, religions and ethnicities. Child brides can be found in every region in the world, from the Middle East to Latin America, South Asia to Europe. In 2010, 13.5 million girls were married before they turned 18. If we do nothing, by 2030 an estimated 15.4 million girls a year will marry as children. In the developing world, one in nine girls is married before her 15th birthday and some child brides are as young as eight or nine.
The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women is an international awareness-raising campaign to influnece behaviour change to end gender violence as a human rights issue. The campaign takes place annually in the period between 25 November and 10 December. Actually among the conflict affected groups, women and girls are more subjected to many forms of human rights violation on the basis of their gender. With this years theme “Working Together to Address Child Marriage”, IMPR Humanitarian commemorated the campaign by organising events in IMPR community center that highlighted the issue of child marriage and promoted the services available for women. Moreover, engaging boys, youth and men into the camapign would aim at creating more respect for women and treat them as equals.
The campaign continues to raise awareness amongst the Syrian refugees who might have participation in raising awareness in their communities. This report shows IMPR Humanitarian’s intervention during the 16 days of activism.
We had launched the campaign with showing 3 kinds of activities which run regularly through all 16 days:
- Short videos on child marriage to transmit educational messages in a way that fits the local context. These videos were watched by all beneficiaries who attended our activities and who came for the first time. These videos do not require the literacy skills, and for this reason they are effective tools to spread the message so openly and widely.
- Leave a message on child marriage: we gave beneficiaries a free space to share their ideas, feelings, and reactions about child marriage on a white cloth. İt was observed that it drew the attention of different age groups who were highly inspired to make their words visible to others.
- Tell Us What You Think: We have set an “Opinion Box” becasue we beleive that beneficiaries’ opinions make a difference and stimulate actions. Beneficiaries have shared their opinions freely by writing them on a pieces of papers and putting inside the box. And when beneficiaries see that we vlaue their opinions, they would show a deeper commitment to do actions towards the harmful practice “child marriage” in particular, and “violence against women” in general.
Now, we would like to review the other special raising awareness, counseling and psychosocial activities which were implemented during this campaign:
- Family Planning:
Because violence against women is a serious violation of women’s human rights, reporoductive health is one of the consequences of violence against women. For women, an access to information about reprodcutive health would be helping them to receive care they need, and so their health problems would be reduced. And as we know that one of the components of reproductive health is fmily planning.
We conducted 2 raising awareness sessions on family planning with 18 women attending each session. The topics included the following poitns; What is family planning, benefits of family planning to mother, child and family and available contraceptives with advantages for women. Family planning booklets were distributed which linclude all these information and addresses of service providers in Urfa.
Women showed interest in session contents and they all raised the issue of convincing husbands to accept family planning for the benfits which have been explained above.
İt was so important to educate young girls about stages of adolescence and let them be aware of their needs during the adolescence period and how it is necessary for them to prevent marriage which is the beginning of frequent and unprotected sexual activity.
The session started with showing short video on adolescence which describes physical, emotional and psychological changes ocur with girls duirng this period. More focus was highlighted on personal hygiene, risks of early pregnancy and advices for girls how to protect themselves if they face harrasment by any body and how it is important to report such incident.
The participant girls have suggested to target mothers and their daugthers together because motehrs are key persons in daily contact with their daughters and they have roles in girls protection.
- Psychological and social impact of child marriage:
As we believe that raising people’s awareness and knowledge about some topics could lead to changing behaviours. A raising awareness session for gilrs aged 12-17 years old was condcuted by the community center psychologist. The main topics were about definition of early marriage, Psychological effects to mother and child, and health effects to mothers.
The participants have highly interacted with the session contents, and they have shared their ideas and questions.
- SGBV session:
With close relation to this campaign topic, a raising awarenss session was condcuted for females aged 18-45 years old. The session started with giving a definition of SGBV with refernce to the international human rights. SGBV has a big risk and threaten for children life and specially for women who are exposed for abuse and more vulnerable to violence, exploitation and violations because of their age, sex and social status.
Women could face various forms of SGBV in home, community, work place. Some of these forms have been introduced such as physical or emotional violence, trafficking of girls and women, domestic violence, sexual harassment at work, exploitation, child marriage, financial abuse, emotional abuse ..etc.
The participants interacted in a good way, and some of them shared personal experiences related to SGBV which happened to them during displacement, forced marriage and domestice violence.
- Legal counseling:
As dissemnitaion of information about the legal rights and status of Syrians under the temporal protection regulation (TPR) stated by the Turkish government, would increase Syrians’ knowledge and awareness about their rights and responsibilities as individuals and families. And to respond to Syrians’needs to get more information, a group counseling session on TPR was conducted and beneficiaries of different agae groups attended. The session covered topics related to registration (ID Guest Cards and benefits), health, education, social and psychological benfits for Syrians and marriage law and legal age for Syrians. Also, information about women’s protection procedure and centers and the available service providers in Urfa were also intridcued to participants. According to the results of pre and post test, most of the beneficiaries showed significant increased level of understanding and knowledge about the their rights.
- Community Group Discussion
After displacement, women’s roles and resposibilities have been changed and now they share the same duties as men. And this might make women more vulnerable and would require more protection services.To have more understanding of working women’s challenges and impacts in work place and in home, we have condcuted a focus group discussion about these issue for women aged 18 – 45 years old.
According to the results of discussions, most of women have shared their ideas and opinions about challnegs that working women would face such as unablility to make a ballance between her work conditions and family life in terms of child care, and suffering from long working hours without enough break times. Another risky challenge and problem for them is being exposed to physical, emotional and sexual abuse as well as exploitation. These challenges could develop psychological distress or pressure to women in general and working mothers in particular.
On the other hand, the participants have identified some impacts of women’s work to themselves and their own families. For children as they are the most vulnerable, they might lose the tender and care because of one of parents’ absence and would put more pressure on older children to look after their younger brothers and sisters. For women, there are particular works which would cause physical harms such as cotton fields and glass factories an deven working in the streets. When women or girls are exposed to abuse or harasment, their fear from family and community would prevent them from speaking out and this makes their feeling of safety and security is decreased.
All participants have emphasized that community centers have significant contribution to empowering women in terms of developing their skills and their coping mechanisms during crisis.
- Psychosocial Intervention
Because women and girls are the most vulnerable and conflict-affected groups, their psychosocial well-being becomes at risk of deterioration. Therefore, there are needs to provide protection services for them. İn this respect, several psychosocial activities have been condcuted:
- Live Music:
As a means of communication and spreading messages, music is used to promote rights. İt was fully interactive and participatory by beneficiaries and stimulated their interest while they were leaving their messages and opinions about child marriage and violence against women.
- Hand craft Activity
Women and gilrs had the opportunity to participate in 2 hand craft sessions and they spent interesting time together where they enjoyed to make decorations for the child friendly space (CFS) at community center and make illuminator dishes.
- Soap Activity
Again women and girls had another 2 sessions of psychosocial activity to attend. By soap, they could make amazing and lovely sculptures of soap. İt was observed that most participants enjoyed the experience and even they invited their daughters to have the same entertainment.
- Group Dynamic Games (Playful Approach)
Games can be purely recreational as well as precious tools for learning social relations.
And each game for girls:
- Engages the girl to develop her intellectual capacity.
- Involves movement which develops physical abilities
- Helps to develop psychosocial skills which can lead to beter management of emotions and social relations, and thus better cooperation between girls.
After enough time playing, the facilitaor stops the game, brings the girls together in a circle and asks them what they found difficult and how they can improve the quality of the game.
İt is worth mentioning that the outcomes of activities revealed that Syrian community members expressed a strong interest in the prevention of violence against women and gender equality.
Actually, organizations working for women’s protection have to strengthen the collaboration among each other by producing resources and materials to reinforce advocacy efforts to achieve more peaceful world for women and girls free of gender-based violence.