Refugee girls face disproportionate challenges to receiving an education. They are extremely vulnerable to early marriage and pregnancy and are subjected to socio-cultural traditions and gender roles that limit their educational opportunities.
At JRS, we are committed to investing in girls’ education. In partnership with other organisations, JRS offers gender-responsive education programmes that align to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We prioritise projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, where access to education is the lowest, especially for displaced girls.
The importance of secondary education for girls
Secondary education represents an important phase of growth, development, and opportunity. Unfortunately, global trends show that refugee students at secondary level are instead at greatest risk of being left behind. In conflict and displacement situations, refugee adolescents, most especially girls, face the pressure to drop out of school to support their families.
Secondary education is a lifeline for girls living in displacement. Each additional year of secondary education for girls results in lower risks of early marriage and early pregnancy.
Investing in secondary education for girls creates more equitable, peaceful, and sustainable communities. The further girls progress in school, the more likely they are to earn an income, become self-reliant, and contribute to the growth and well-being of their families and communities.
Breaking down barriers to girls’ education
Poverty is the most significant obstacle to refugee girls’ access to and completion of secondary education. With limited resources, families choose to invest in their sons’ education as they are seen as having greater opportunities to work, while girls are charged with domestic duties.
Traditional attitudes towards girls’ education weigh heavily, especially in places where child marriage and teenage pregnancy are common.
In many places, lack of menstrual hygiene management (MHM) facilities and supplies negatively impact the ability of girls to participate in school.
For girls to attend and remain in school, we need adequate secondary school infrastructure that can guarantee a welcoming learning environment, safe and free from all forms of gender-based violence and discrimination.
COVID-19 has exacerbated the vulnerability of displaced girls. School closures and restrictions on movement have amplified existing barriers and challenges for achieving inclusive, quality education. It is estimated that over 10 million girls may never return to school.
JRS is tackling barriers to education for refugee girls by:
- implementing scholarship programmes,
- promoting gender equitable attitudes and behaviours, and raising awareness about gender-based violence (GBV) and reporting mechanisms among girls and boys,
- investing in increased and improved MHM-compliant infrastructure, as well as distributing MHM supplies and conducting MHM trainings,
- participating in working groups such as the Gender Task Team of the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergency (INEE).