Intersecting issues which must be addressed to provide comprehensive protection for girls 13 – 18
Many of the issues affecting this group are similar to those experienced by younger girls. However, there are significant differences. Refugee communities identified this group as at the highest risk of rape and sexual abuse, trafficking and exploitation. Once again, unsafe shelter and WASH facilities pose major problems. Girls who are known to be raped are shamed, and not considered marriageable, and therefore a burden on their families. Without education, they have little access to safe livelihoods. Early and forced marriage is common, both as a means of survival as families cannot afford to feed their children and is also seen as a means of protection from endemic SGBV. Girls in this age group who become pregnant either from rape or forced marriage have little access to sexual and reproductive health services. Many die because they are malnourished and not mature enough to bear a child. Lack of comprehensive gender-disaggregated data collection means that these issues are seldom identified and therefore not addressed. Even if allowed to attend primary school many girls aged 13-18 are not allowed to attend secondary school because of the increased danger of SGBV. Lack of access to sufficient sanitary material stops many girls from attending school once they commence menstruation. Lack of education leads to a lack of access to opportunities and many girls are forced into exploitative unsafe labour and some have to sell sex to survive. A combination of early marriage and lack of education makes it difficult for many in this age group to participate in decision-making forums. It was reported that many of the older men who take a child-wife are abusive and frequently leave the girl with one or more babies to raise alone. This is a further shame factor. Girls with a disability across the spectrum from physical to intellectual are extremely vulnerable especially when they have been left home alone, without specialist services. Refugee communities reported endemic rape and sexual abuse of this group, leading to some parents locking their children indoors alone all day to try to protect them. There is also a shame factor associated with disability, and if a girl with a disability becomes pregnant from rape it is an enormous burden on the family already struggling to care for her. Adolescent lesbian, bisexual and transgender girls are marginalised, and targeted for rape, forced by families into marriage, and shamed in the community. This leads to exclusion from many services and opportunities for education, training and livelihoods. Despite these barriers, some girls, often from families who had the opportunity to be educated before becoming refugees, are supported to get an education and join youth groups, which, has been clearly seen and acknowledged in the COVID-19 Pandemic are extremely effective in reaching out to help support their communities.
Example pledge to effectively address the needs of Children 13 – 18
Member States and other stakeholders could include all or some of the following Language in pledges to address the need of this group. Many of the recommendations for the 0-12 age groups are appropriate for this age group. Additionally:
We X State, X Stakeholder commit to ensuring that adequate protection services are funded and implemented to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence for youth, in particular girls. These will include comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, counselling and psychosocial support, including for women and girls with a disability and members of the LBTI communities. It will include measures to address the structural issues which inhibit girls from attending secondary school, including safety when travelling, ensuring that teaching staff are not abusive, and provision of adequate sanitary materials. Consultations will be held with families and communities to address forced marriage and the education of girls and measures put in place to address structural aspects of this problem. Training and effective, as opposed to tokenistic, livelihood opportunities, will be provided to girls who cannot attend school to foster self-reliance. Actions will be taken to address the trafficking and labour exploitation of this cohort. Safe recreational facilities will be provided in refugee sites. The needs and preferences of unaccompanied minors will be taken into consideration when considering durable solutions for this group. Strategies will be developed to encourage the maximum participation of girls in decision making, and support will be provided to strengthen the already functioning and successful groups run by and for these groups.