When Caged Birds Sing: Report of Syrian Adolescent Girls

from United Nations Population Fund
Published on 31 Dec 2018

As the war in Syria approaches its ninth year, the humanitarian situation is continually evolving, and the needs of the affected populations remain high. Even as some parts of Syria appear to be stabilizing, the crisis has long since passed a tipping point in terms of generational change, and its effects will undoubtedly continue for many years to come. This is particularly true in the case of women and girls due to the deeprooted complexity of the issues they continue to face on a daily basis.

In humanitarian crises, the risks of gender-based violence against women and girls often multiply, and the situation in Syria and the region is no exception. In a society ingrained with patriarchal attitudes, women and girls often find themselves at a significant disadvantage, especially in light of disruptions in community networks, safety nets and rule of law. Since the onset of the crisis, humanitarian actors have been in a constant race against continuing reports that show that genderbased violence remains a serious protection risk both inside Syria and throughout the region. This will undoubtedly have lasting repercussions on the fabric of Syrian society, with ramifications palpable enough to compromise the efforts of the international community to secure a stable and resilient future for the people of Syria.

While women and girls alike bear the brunt of the crisis, girls — particularly adolescent girls — face increasingly complex challenges that stand to alter the course of their development for the rest of their lives. Violation of privacy, movement restrictions, forced and early marriage, and sexual and physical violence continue to be part of their daily reality, creating a web of violence that can transcend generations. Many adolescent girls in 2018 were in the 5-to-11 year-old age category when the crisis began in 2011. The experiences they have gone through over the past eight years have defined and indelibly shaped a significant portion of their formative years.

This publication is an attempt to highlight the plight of adolescent girls who have survived what is arguably the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. The information, stories and quotations provided not only shed light on the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis, but also highlight their hopes, aspirations and their courageous efforts to find their place amid the chaos of conflict.
The narratives presented in this publication, including the stories and quotations, were acquired via direct interactions with Syrian adolescent girls and their families throughout the region, including inside Syria and within refugee camps and host communities in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Given the sensitive nature of the subjects discussed and the protection issues associated with telling these stories, special care has been taken to adhere to the wishes of these girls with regards to the type of information disclosed, e.g., when it comes to the use of real names, hometowns and current locations. Because of this, no real names feature in these accounts. Moreover, details of hometowns and current whereabouts feature only intermittently in accordance with the wishes of those interviewed and/or quoted.