Reducing early marriage of adolescent Syrian refugees in Lebanon: Improving access to sexual and reproductive health information and services
Although the average age of marriage in the Arab world has risen, rates of early marriage remain high, especially in conflict-affected areas and among displaced populations. Early marriage leads to negative health and social consequences for adolescent girls, including risky early pregnancies, higher rates of school dropout, decreased social mobility, limited legal rights, reduced access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information and services, limited autonomy on decision-making on family planning, and higher risk of gender-based violence.
This project, implemented by the American University of Beirut, seeks to address the challenge of early marriage among adolescent Syrian refugees in Lebanon by enhancing access to SRH information and services. A community-oriented, rights-based multi-sectoral intervention will be designed, implemented, and evaluated in the town of Bar Elias. Its aim is to generate a better understanding of how factors such as access to SRH information and services, education, and economic opportunities influence early marriage outcomes and/or protect adolescent girls who are already married. The intervention will focus on Syrian refugee girls who are at risk of early marriage (ages 11-14), their mothers, and young Syrian men in the same communities. Married girls under 18 will also be involved in the study as a way to encourage legal marriage registration and prevent negative sexual and reproductive health consequences.
The project will work with the community to develop and evaluate changes in school attendance, level of knowledge about puberty and menstruation among unmarried adolescent girls, access to SRH information and services among married adolescent girls, gender empowerment and agency, and how many girls are getting married before 18. Findings will be shared at different stages of the project through community meetings, policy and practice briefs, academic publications, and dialogues at local, national and regional levels.
This proposal represents one of nine selected projects spanning two regions (West Africa and the Middle East) and two thematic topics (adolescent sexual and reproductive health and health information systems). The project is closely aligned with the Government of Canada’s new Feminist International Assistance Policy, the strategic priorities detailed in the 2016-2030 WHO led Global Strategy for Women, Children and Adolescents, and the overarching 2030 global agenda for sustainable development.