A Day in Her Shoes

Child Marriage , Education

(Emily Courey Pryor, right, in Malawi)

For girls in Malawi, Liberia, Guatemala, and Ethiopia, getting an education is not as simple as showing up for kindergarten in September.

Many different factors determine her chance to make it through elementary school — how much money her family has, if she has time to go to school, if the school (and the walk to and from school) is safe and secure, and if her parents believe that education for their daughter is a priority.

This gets even more complicated for girls and families who are forced to leave their homes because of a humanitarian crisis — such as violence or famine in their own country.

There is a terrible famine the Horn of Africa caused by drought and made worse by fighting and ongoing violence in Somalia.

The crisis has been in the news for many weeks now, and will be for many weeks to come. There are nearly 180,000 Somalis now living in UNHCR refugee camps in Ethiopia, fleeing from the situation in their country, and hundreds of thousands more living in camps within Somalia or in Kenya.

The life of a refugee — man or woman, boy or girl — is never easy. For Somali refugee girls there are special challenges.

In their own country, girls often have limitations on schooling, have been victims of violence, or forced into early marriages.

Living in a refugee camp, with fewer resources and tight living conditions, going to school is even harder.

Girl Up is currently working with UNHCR in three Somali refugee camps in Ethiopia to ensure that Somali refugee girls are able to have a quality education in a safe environment.

When Girl Up visited the programs in the refugee camps earlier this year, we met a girl named Farhia.

When she was 15, and still living in Somalia, she was forced to marry and was abused. She fled her marriage and the violence in the community and eventually found work in a household.

But while working there, she was abused by her employer. She fled once more, and escaped to Ethiopia and ended up in a UNHCR refugee camp.

For the first time, Farhia has been able to go to school and feels safer than she has in many years.

We want this success for Farhia to be expanded to all girls who are in the camps.

Girl Up’s support of UNHCR and local partners to provide safe and quality schooling for girls in refugee camps is not only valuable for each girl, but is also one of the most important long term strategies to recover from this crisis.

With an education, girls not only grow and learn for themselves, but they can help their families and communities realize the power and smarts that girls can bring to securing a peaceful future.

Emily Courey Pryor,

United Nations Foundation,
Director of Partnerships for Women and Girls