Trapped without choice
Basma* is from Lebanon. She's just turned 13. She has just become a wife. She's scared, isolated, alone. She is not ready for sex, pregnancy, children. Her dreams have been shattered by the vows she's been forced to take. This year 13.5 million more children will join her.
Early marriage is real. Children are forced to marry in the name of ‘safety’, when in reality they're being raped, abused and coerced into deadly relationships. Basma is a girl. A girl born in a developing country. A product of gender inequality, a little girl crying for help in a community determined to look the other way.
When her father saw that she was desirable to other older men in their area, he forced her to marry a cousin for her protection. It would cost her everything. Her dreams, her childhood, her education.
Basma was forced to become a woman, required to care for her husband’s family, trapped in a life far from her childhood dreams.
17 per cent of girls in the least developed countries are married by the age of 15. They are likely to suffer physically and psychologically due to their immaturity.
I was afraid she would get abused, I forced her because I was afraid to lose her.
- Mahamet, Basma's Father
A decision made in fear, has forced Basma into a life of fear.
"I have to look after my husband’s large family. I work very hard and I’m tired. I just want to go back,” she said.
She knows that often after a wedding there come children. That's the expectation. She knows she's not ready, children like her can die in childbirth. That is the reality.
Childbirth is the biggest cause of death in girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in developing countries.
The wedding that was meant to save her, could cost her life.
Basma refuses to wear her wedding band on her left hand. This single defiant act is a silent protest, a message to the world that she is not in this marriage by choice.
Basma’s parents deeply regret their decision. They realise now that their little girl was not ready to be married.
Her father says, "I feel very guilty. I have stolen her childhood. I just wanted to protect her and give her a better life."
If God would allow us to undo what we have done, we would do it. We put a burden on her that she can’t handle. It was a terrible mistake.
- Amnian, Basma's Mother
Sadly their realisation came too late.
Your support and prayers are a lifeline to girls like Basma around the world. Through our Raw Hope programme we are able to build schools and child-friendly spaces, and change perceptions of child marriage through our local advocacy campaigns. We do all this to offer a safe alternative, so parents don’t feel they have to choose marriage as a way of protecting their children. You are the catalyst that changes lives, communities and generations to come. Thank you.
A shocking reality:
- A third of girls in developing countries marry before the age of 18.
- Fear of abuse or rape, religious beliefs, poverty and social pressures are just some of the triggers that place these vulnerable young girls in danger of becoming married at a young age.
- As well as being isolated from their families child brides are often condemned to a life of serious ill health, illiteracy and extreme poverty.
- 13.5 million girls are threatened, coerced and encouraged into marriage every year.
*Names have been changed to protect personal identity
HOW WE HELP
Raw Hope is about protecting children in the most treacherous places on earth. Known as ‘fragile contexts’, these are areas where a government cannot or will not act on its responsibility to protect the human rights of its population.
These areas also experience unacceptably high maternal and child mortality rates, and other dangers. These include harmful traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation and early marriage; widespread child exploitation, such as rape and child trafficking; recruitment as child soldiers, or as child prostitutes.
They're also far more likely to be affected by disease and malnutrition, caused by poor hygiene, limited access to water and nutritious food.
Together, through Raw Hope, we can protect vulnerable children by offering lifesaving support and care, rehabilitation and stability in the volatile areas they live in.
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Our child friendly space in Serbia has given children a warm and safe place to rest. Thank you for showing your love and support to every child, every family who we welcome every day. You have shown them, they’re not forgotten.
By donating to Raw Hope, you will help give children like Jumaane and Robert a chance to thrive. We work with local communities to rehabilitate children who have experienced conflict and to protect children in danger. Your support will offer them long-term hope and the opportunity to be a child again.
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At Risk of Recruitment - Robert's Story
Robert*, 14, spent yesterday fishing with his dad. Time with his estranged father clearly makes him happy, but it also gives him hope for the future. If he can learn to fish, Robert might be able to earn a living and feed himself and his mum. His other option is war.
Robert and his mum fled their home just over a year ago, when South Sudan's violence reached their doorstep. They can't afford school fees or uniform now, so Robert doesn't go to school. His father, a fisherman, lives in another town and his older brother joined the army in 2013 when the conflict first started. Since then Robert's only seen his brother once.
There's pressure on Robert to join the army too. It seems inevitable. When faced with the choice between starving or becoming a soldier, Robert's answer is simple. "If I run out of food, I will go," he says.
So, while the army guards the area, keeping a look out for approaching attacks, as the war drags on and the soldiers get younger and younger, Robert plans his next fishing trip and hopes to stave off the inevitable.
Child soldiers and malnourished children - Jumaane and Anasa's stories
There are thousands of child soldiers around the world. Young children are coerced or enticed into joining up, or are simply abducted. They risk their lives every day either on the front line, as spies or as human mine detectors. For these young soldiers, the first casualty of war is their childhood.
Jumaane was recruited during the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) second war. ‘Children are corrupted and change their thinking,’ he says. The horror Jumaane has witnessed is still with him: ‘I feel it. It follows me,’ he says.
He is now Second Chairperson in a Child Parliament composed of former child soldiers.
Through your support of Raw Hope, Child Parliaments are safeguarding children from violence and empowering them to defend their human rights so they can enjoy a true childhood.
Malnourishment - Anasa's story
In the northern provinces of DRC, Anasa lives in a small home with her five children. Up to four times every day, the children walk for 15 minutes down a slippery hill to fetch water for everyone in the household.
Anasa’s family lives on one meal a day and has not eaten meat for three months. She writes to relatives, begging them for money to buy beans. “It’s very bad,” she says. “Every day I struggle to find even a little bit of food to feed the children.”Weakened by hunger during this food shortage, Anasa’s malnourished children are more susceptible to illness and fall prey easily to infections and diseases like malaria.
Your donations support Raw Hope projects that work to help provide clean water, food and healthcare for families like Anasa’s.
In the aftermath of conflict and disaster, World Vision is there, helping to rebuild children’s lives.
As a supporter of Raw Hope you receive regular communications with on-the-ground footage and stories from the countries we’re working in – so you can see how your money is helping to save and protect the world’s most vulnerable children.
Watch Sara's story: the latest update video update from the Syria region below
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FIND OUT MORE
Find out more about our child protection programmes by clicking on the topics below.
Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) are widely used to help support and protect children in the most vulnerable of circumstances, such as the conflict in DR Congo and Syria. In a large camp or town several CFS will be set up to be available to all children within walking distance and are often set up in tents or vacant school buildings, rather than building permanent structures.
CFS provide a safe, focal place in a refugee or IDP (Internally Displaced Person’s) camp or other crisis affected areas. They play an important role in identifying the most vulnerable children in emergency settings, such as:
- those who have lost, or are accidentally separated from one or both parents
- those highly psychologically affected by conflict, disaster or abuse
- those with particular health needs.
Staff are trained to spot such children and refer them on to specialist agencies to meet their needs whether that’s family reunification, alternative care provision, counselling or medical treatment.
While CFS are set up and managed by specialist NGO staff, the activities are run by suitably qualified volunteers from among the local affected population who already have good experience of working with children; often they will be teachers. Children and youth can gather to play and participate in organised games, sports, creative and learning activities to provide a stable and ‘normal’ routine in often chaotic and highly risky situations, and help them work through any traumatic events that they may have experienced.
This approach is designed to support children’s ‘psycho-social well-being’. Informal teaching is commonly planned to ensure children are made aware of new risks and hazards in their changed situation and how to avoid risks (such as abuse, water borne disease) and protect themselves from harm and illness.
Sometimes CFS have a stronger focus on providing basic education in literacy and numeracy until schools can be reopened, or set up in a new camp. CFS are generally short-term, emergency interventions of about 1-3 months, with the longer term goal of transferring children back into schools and possibly youths into vocational training and work opportunities.
They are also sometimes called ‘Safe Spaces’ and ‘Child-Centred Spaces’.
Child Parliaments provide a forum where older children and youth can gather to meet, identify and discuss issues that are important to them and develop ‘resolutions’ for action by local authorities and service providers - such as those who are responsible for protecting children or providing welfare support.
Parliaments are typically set up by NGOs or UNICEF, but are designed to be led by young people with support and facilitation by adults. Young people also find that Child Parliaments are safe places for them to meet and share, with their peers and supportive adults, the challenges they face in their personal lives (such as dealing with abusive or neglectful parents or violent situations) and work out positive solutions.
At their most effective, Child Parliaments have succeeded in campaigning for and bringing about changes on local issues that most affect their members. Sometimes this advocacy is scaled up to regional or national level when several Child Parliaments work together. They are an initiative that is applied across both emergency and more stable settings.
We work with children and their communities to both prevent children from being recruited into armed groups, and to support former child soldiers to reclaim their youth. By strengthening the protective environment around a child, we help them to be less vulnerable to forced recruitment as child soldiers. We also work with communities to address some of the ‘push’ factors such as lack of food or opportunities, and insecurity that may lead children to choose to join armed groups in search of a better life.
Children feel the impacts of conflict for a long time and need expert care and protection as they struggle to recover from their ordeals. Our experience in Sierra Leone, Uganda, DRC, Myanmar and elsewhere has shown that the reintegration process for child soldiers is complex and lengthy.
Former child soldiers find it difficult to adjust back into civilian life after witnessing and participating in the horrors associated with conflict. Many face barriers to their rehabilitation; including rejection by family and community members due to stigma and struggle to progress academically due to lengthy absences from school. Without education, job opportunities are limited and a cycle of poverty continues.
Since 2011, the Rebound project in eastern DRC has been supporting former child soldiers. We provide psychosocial support, vocational training and facilitate family reunification where possible. We also support young people as they reintegrate into their communities. Between 2011 and 2014, 91 former child soldiers and 119 ex-child sex workers were successfully rehabilitated. All of those children were enrolled in vocational, literacy and life skills training and received psychosocial support.
In countries affected by conflict, disaster, violence or extreme poverty, children and young people who are particularly vulnerable (usually, but not always girls) may find themselves driven or coerced into prostitution. Children enter into prostitution to survive, have food or lodging, or escape an abusive and ‘hopeless’ home situation where they may be uncared for and often sexually violated.
These case studies were collected in Eastern DR Congo in November 2013 (all names changed to protect the girl’s identities):
"I left my town for the city and joined the brothel when I was 13 as my mother was a widow and had no means to send me to school alongside my 3 older brothers." Charlotte
"I was an orphan with an increasingly hard life so left my aunt’s to sell beer in a brothel and soon men paid to have sex with me. I was not paid well so came to town with 3 friends from the same brothel to rent a house and set up our own brothel. I was the eldest (13) and soon we recruited other children from my home village and gave them to men. Being a prostitute is not an easy job and girls only get $1.5 - $1 per client, but their basic food and shelter needs are met and they even get beauty lotions. They organise themselves to support and protect each other. Girls in brothels often don’t go to the police for help if they have problems (violence) because they need the money they earn, also what they do is illegal so police won’t listen or worse may imprison them." Buyana
In Eastern DRC, World Vision works with a local partner, Benenfance on the Rebound project, to support child prostitutes who wish to escape the brothels and be reintegrated back into their home communities. The girls receive counselling and training on their rights, health and life skills issues. They are given apprenticeship training in vocational skills (typically sewing) and on completion receive a ‘start-up kit’ (sewing machine etc) to enable them to make a living.
In 2008 there were 627 girls in 164 brothels. World Vision and Benenfance started work in 2009 and by 2011, numbers had dropped to 365 girls in 61 brothels. Previously the Mayor and police had tried to intervene with little result, but World Vision was much more successful because they took a multi-pronged, holistic approach, using the radio and child protection structures to influence government officials, community members and leaders.
"Before Rebound, I had nothing in mind to help myself and lived by my own means, but today I have a skill for the future." Charlotte
"Rebound has made a big change in my life; now I am able to do tailoring, get my own customers and live by myself, not dependent, although my income is sometimes not enough. I left my old friends who were a bad influence, I have found new friends and my goal in life now is to earn money and be able to help other children." Kasima
"Since leaving the brothel my project for the future is to open my own workshop, rent my own house and continue helping other children in brothels. Then I want to support 2 or 3 of them to leave." Buyana
These are areas that foreign policy refers to as ‘fragile contexts’ – where a government cannot, or will not, act on its responsibility to protect the rights of its population. Issues affecting these areas include malnutrition and disease, high maternal and child mortality. Harmful traditional practices – such as early marriage and female genital mutilation – exist here too, as does exploitation, trafficking, child prostitution and the recruitment of child soldiers.
Raw Hope works in the most fragile areas of the world, where other funds are unable to reach, in order to provide protection for children and a chance of survival for the young people who live there. These children face significant and immediate danger every single day, with their lives continually at risk from physical abuse and harm, exploitation and general immediate threat from their environment.
Raw Hope funds allow World Vision to respond to urgent need, providing aid and security for children in the most volatile areas. This includes everything from minimising the risk of rape and murder of children travelling to water supplies to helping to give children a voice through Child Parliaments.
Raw Hope works in the world’s most dangerous places where it is extremely difficult and inefficient to set up programmes such as child sponsorship. Before Raw Hope, World Vision had to rely on unreliable sources of funding which prevented the provision of substantial support to those areas most in need.
Stand with me: our uncertain future was created by Syrian refugee children. The report reveals the fears,violence and uncertainty that still haunts Syrian refugee children even in their host countries, and reports that, tragically, some 86 per cent of children who were interviewed have been exposed to violence in their new communities. Through this report, these children challenge world leaders to end the conflict. Download it now »
No one to turn to - life for children in eastern DRC is our latest report from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In it, the children of the DRC tell the real and devastating nightmares they face every day. Hundreds of thousands of children are living under the threat of attack by a multitude of armed groups, but rarely are their experiences or views heard. Download it now »
Sounding the alarm documents the suffering that has befallen the children of South Sudan. But more importantly, it warns that unless urgent measures are taken things will get unimaginably worse. Download it now »
Fixing a food crisis and preventing a catastrophe in South Sudan urges the intermational community to remember lessons learnt from similar crisis in South Sudan and elsewhere, and live up to its commitments by pursuing the recommendations made in this report. Download it now »
Exploring the links: female genital mutilation/cutting and early marriage aims to explore some of the potential links between the practices of FGM/C and early marriage. In doing so, it looks at some of the drivers of these practices, and will make the case that in contexts where both FGM/C and early marriage are practiced, development research, policy and programmes would be well advised to address the two practices in tandem. Download it now »