Syrian girls are facing worsening sexual violence and barriers to education as a result of COVID-19

Children living both inside and outside of Syria are facing increased levels of gender-based violence, barriers to education and inequality thanks to coronavirus. 

We reported on how the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women in the UK – stats show that 47% of mothers have quit or been made redundant in lockdown compared to 13% of men. Back in November, stats dubbed the ‘she-cession‘ showed female unemployment rate in the UK at 17%, compared to 13% for men.

And, sadly, new research has revealed that it’s not only British women who are being negatively impacted by the pandemic. Syrian girls are facing increased levels of sexual violence and barriers to education as a result of COVID-19.

According to Save The Children’s data, almost half of children in Syria are at risk of sexual violence. Not only that, the charity’s projections show that by the end of 2024 the economic impacts of the pandemic will put an additional 2.5 million Syrian girls at risk of child marriage.

The charity calculated this figure by partnering with the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). From there, they worked out how many children live 50km or closer to conflicts where at least one armed-group or force has perpetrated sexual violence against children in a given year.

This comes after the latest annual report from the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict, which showed that 749 cases of sexual violence against children were verified in 2019, 98% of them committed against girls.

It’s ten years since the start of the Syrian war, and the new research only highlights the necessity to help and support those in need.

Save the Children representatives also shared that the ongoing conflict does not help, and girls’ lives and futures are at grave risk.

Why has the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact? Well, a number of reasons. It makes it harder than ever for girls in vulnerable positions to escape sexual violence, plus it’s more difficult to report it, too.

Hala*, 39, fled Syria with her family in 2012. She now lives with her nine children in Northern Lebanon, where Save the Children provides her with virtual psychosocial support.

“The situation is extremely difficult and Coronavirus has worsened the situation even more,” she shares.

“I worry about everything for [my children]. From getting kidnapped, or for the girls, that they get raped. [I worry about] sexual harassment. From everything that happened to us. We’re living among rats and rubbish and a falling ceiling.”

Gabrielle Szabo, gender equality advisor at Save the Children, said: “It is not acceptable for children to be born into and grow up in a humanitarian crisis. Too often, girls carry the hidden cost of conflict – they suffer stigma, rejection by their families and communities, in addition to psychological and physical consequences of sexual violence and other abuse.”

“This ten-year war has cost Syria’s girls their childhoods, but the world should not allow it to rob them of their futures. Violence against women and girls in humanitarian crises is desperately underfunded and increased investment in prevention and response services, gender equality and girl’s empowerment is urgently needed to ensure the next 10 years for these girls are better than the last.” 

Save the Children are supporting families in Syria and surrounding countries. To show your support, you can head to their Syria Appeal page now.

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