HER TURN It’s time to make refugee girls’ education a priority

By Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees

Access to education is a fundamental human right. It is essential to the acquisition of knowledge and to “the full development of the human personality”, as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states. More than that, education makes us more resilient and independent individuals. Yet for millions of women and girls among the world’s ever-growing refugee population, education remains an aspiration, not a reality.


UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, visiting a repaired kindergarten in Luhansk, Ukraine. © UNHCR/Alina Cherkashina

Limited access to schooling perpetuates and magnifies the challenges of life in exile – finding work, staying healthy, holding on to dignity and hope. It also limits the potential of refugee women and girls to rebuild their lives, protect themselves against abuse and take a lead in shaping the lives of their communities.

Without an education, refugee women and girls are denied the confidence to speak out – to contribute to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms around the world. Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders. They are the ones who will help to foster peace and stability. They are the ones who will blaze trails for others to follow and set examples that future generations will seek to emulate. For the future security of their home countries, it is vital that refugee women and girls are given the keys of education to unlock their potential as leaders of peace.

Asma’a Adnan Saied, 23, Syrian refugee in Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan, studying English Literature at a university thanks to a DAFI scholarship (Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative).
© UNHCR/Antoine Tardy

“I’ll have a brighter future. For me and my family. And for the next generation of Syrians.”-Asma’a

Enabling refugee girls to get access to quality education requires action right across the board – from national education ministries and teacher training institutions, to communities and classrooms. This will not be easy: forced displacement has accelerated in recent years, straining facilities and infrastructure in countries that host refugees, many of which were already battling to provide adequate services to their own people. That’s why we at UNHCR are calling for an international effort to turn the tide.

Refugee girls often have fewer opportunities than boys, but UNHCR and its partners have identified ways in which we can widen their access to education. We now need support to implement these strategies globally and redress the imbalance.

Refugee children from Mali compete to catch their teacher’s attention in one of the six primary schools in Mbera refugee camp, Mauritania. © UNHCR/Helena Pes

Good examples abound, and many countries are making changes to help more girls from both refugee and local communities attend school. Our task is to make sure this happens everywhere, and to help create stronger communities that unite to find solutions to shared challenges. We have found time and time again that measures to support refugee women and girls also have long-term benefits for the communities hosting refugees.

It is time for the international community to recognize the injustice of denying refugee girls and women an education. Please join us in demanding: “It’s her turn”. It’s her turn to be equipped with the confidence of education. If you give her this chance, there is no limit to her potential.

Source: UNHCR’s website.


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