English / عربي
"Knowledge from the region, for the region"
05 Oct

Takeaways from Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence Workshop in Amman

On September 28th, WANA researcher Annalisa Bezzi participated in a Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) workshop in Amman, the first in a series of events to be held in the region over the next 9 years. The programme, funded by the UK Department for International Development and managed by the Overseas Development Institute in London, seeks to research and evaluate interventions targeting adolescent girls in conflict-affected countries in West Africa, North Africa and West Asia.

Over the course of the two days, participants touched upon different themes, such as the importance but scarcity of mental health services for adolescent refugee girls. Economic hardship, unpaid and child labour, displacement, child marriage and lack of access to education were cited as the most referenced challenges faced by refugee girls. Particularly interesting was the issue of mobility: girls’ movement is highly restricted, both in camps and host communities. This situation was linked to fears of sexual harassment, safeguarding family honour, as well as parents’ desire to protect their daughters. Girls often can only leave the house when they are accompanied, and are not allowed to play outside once they reach puberty. This significantly limits their ability to network and meet peers. Such mobility restrictions, coupled with isolation and patriarchy tends to exclude women (and especially young girls) from decision-making processes and lack of access to the public sphere. Lack of voice, power and agency among refugee girls is perhaps one of the main obstacles to their empowerment and access to opportunities.

In this regard, it was interesting to learn about NGO initiatives to include refugee girls in their work and activities, in order to give them visibility in the public sphere. Critically, gaps in these programmes emerged when voice was given to refugee girls themselves. One panellist – a 19-year old Syrian refugee girl living in Za’atari – highlighted that while most NGOs do include girls in their activities, they mainly employ them for tasks and duties that have been pre-established for them. She emphasised how girls did not have influence, even among those NGOs whose mandate is to help women and girls.

Civil society and non-governmental organisations are carrying out impressive work to assist refugee girls. But their beneficiaries’ views and priorities are perhaps not sufficiently taken into consideration. Sometimes their opinions are unwanted, or considered irrelevant because they are ‘adolescent’. Dr Ahna Suleiman, the Associate Director at UC Berkeley Center on the Developing Adolescent, disproved this stereotype, explaining how the adolescent brain is able to process change, emotion and handle different situations in an efficient and creative way.

The key lesson gleaned from the workshop is that project beneficiaries need to advance from simply being ‘consulted’ and ‘included’, to becoming actors in projects. The value of local and the responsibility of regional organisations is to actualise this. It is also clear that issues of inclusivity are easy to conceptualise but difficult to implement. Questions such as how to reconcile disparate views; the cost and time involved vis-à-vis tight project budgets and pressure to implement; and ‘how much’ consultation is sufficient, should be at the fore of policy and programming discussions is we are committed to sustainable impact.

By WANA researcher Annalisa Bezzi

Web design Web design Jordan Foresite تطوير المواقع الإلكترونية الأردن