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Syria’s Decade Of Conflict Takes Massive Toll On Women And Girls


This week, Syria marks a grim anniversary: 10
years since the start of the country’s grinding conflict.
Today, one decade into the catastrophe, about half the
country’s population has been uprooted, with some 12
million people internally displaced or living as
refugees.

Atop the persistent insecurity,
Syrians are also enduring
the COVID-19 pandemic
and worsening economic conditions – all of which are
taking a disproportionate toll on women and girls across the
region.

“For many girls and young women like me,
this is all that we have known”, Samia (we have changed
the names and locations of those named in this article for
their protection) told UNFPA a year
and half ago. She was 17 at the time and had lived for
several years as a refugee after fleeing violence in her
hometown of Qamishli.

Since then, she has survived
child marriage, attempted sexual assault and repeated family
violence, including at the hands of her own
brother.

This kind of violence and trauma is all too
common among the women and girls of Syria, both those still
living in their home country and those exiled to refugee
camps and communities.

“The violence happens
everywhere, and it definitely became worse”, explained
Lamia, an adolescent girl from Eastern
Ghouta.

UNFPA’s programme data show that the risk of
gender-based violence has increased significantly over
recent years, a trend corroborated by reports from other
humanitarian actors. Many say they fear that this violence
has become normalized.

New reality

In the last
decade, insecurity, fear and intense economic pressures have
sharply increased the vulnerability of women and girls, and
rates of practices such as child marriage, have
spiked.

Sixteen-year-old Mariam, from Aleppo, told
UNFPA that, for girls her age, “life quickly became an
open-air prison after the war. Suddenly, we were told not to
leave our houses because we might get harassed, raped or
kidnapped. I’m told that being married is my only path to
true safety, but I don’t want to get married. I’m simply not
ready.”

Access to school and health care – once
taken for granted – are no longer assured. Among those in
need of assistance across the region, close to half a
million are pregnant, requiring access to quality sexual and
reproductive health care.

The COVID-19 pandemic has
only compounded
these challenges
, with movement restrictions keeping
some women at home with abusers, and rising economic stress
increasing tensions in the home.

Looking to the
future

UNFPA and partners remain committed to
providing life-saving services to women and girls in Syria
and in camps and host communities throughout the region. In
2020 alone, UNFPA delivered sexual and reproductive health
services to nearly 2 million people, while almost 1.2
million were reached through programmes to prevent and
respond to gender-based violence.

Throughout the
region, UNFPA supports 112 women’s and girls’ safe
spaces, 17 youth centres, 33 emergency obstetric care
facilities, 133 primary healthcare centres, and 125 mobile
clinics. Over the past five years, UNFPA has been able to
scale up its services, doubling the numbers of people
reached.

But these continuing efforts require support
from the international community. UNFPA is enhancing its
regional response throughout 2021 to address challenges
including the worsening economic situation and pandemic, for
example by piloting cash and voucher
assistance programmes
.

UNFPA will also continue
tailoring programmes to make them more accessible to a wider
range of groups, including adolescent girls, people with
disabilities and the LGBTQI community.

And amid the
ongoing crisis, the people of Syria have not given up hope.
Young people at UNFPA’s centres and programmes demonstrate
remarkable resilience, with many rising above their
challenges to become artists, activists, innovators and
other influential voices in their communities.

“Like
all girls in Syria, I live a difficult childhood,” said Bana,
12, in northwest Syria. But she, like so many young Syrians,
dares to dream of a better future: “I like to learn to
make my future bright,” she said. “I hope that this war
will end soon so I can return safely with my family to our
home… I am sure this is the dream of every girl
here.”

© Scoop Media

 



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