The Syrian civil war has driven more and more refugees into Lebanon, living in poverty, with more and more Syrian refugee children out of school, many young Syrian girls find themselves subject to early marriage. In refugee communities in Lebanon, early marriage has become the norm. Although the Syrian culture was not completely opposed to the idea of early marriage even before the crisis erupted, early marriage today is more frequent. According to figures released in 2016 by UNICEF, the prevalence of child marriage in pre-war Syria was 13%. Today, the prevalence of child marriage has risen to 39% in refugee communities in Lebanon.
The factors that drive refugee mothers and fathers to marry their girls off mainly stem from one place: desperation.
Because of the refugee status in Lebanon, refugee families struggle to make ends meet. Those lucky enough to find day jobs often work in construction or in vegetable fields for meager pay. Unable to provide for their families, parents marry their daughters off to older men who in turn pay a designated price for the bride. By allowing such a marriage, refugee parents not only have one less mouth to feed but they also get some money.
In addition to the financial strain, most Syrian refugees in Lebanon do not live in houses or apartments, instead they live in tent settlements scattered across the Bekaa valley and in the South of Lebanon. Built very close to each other, these tents are made of nothing more than wood and plastic tarps. Still heavily influenced by cultural norms, Syrian families are anxious by the close proximity of other tent settlers and worry about preserving the honor of their daughters. By marrying their daughters off, refugee parents believe that they are protecting them from the possibility of harassment and gossip.
Instead of enjoying their childhood and increasing their knowledge at school, Syrian refugee girls are expected to tend to their husbands and stay at home.
At 15, Farah, who is engaged to be married, has only seen her fiancé once before. Living in the Bekaa valley with her mother and four siblings, Farah’s engagement comes months after the disappearance of her father in Syria. Without a male figure at home, Farah’s mother, Amal, feels the urge to quickly find husbands for her daughters.
Farah’s younger sister, Cedra, who is only 10 years old, is also at risk of early marriage. Cedra’s mother admits that she has no problem with pulling her daughter out of school once she finds her a suitable husband.
As our relationship with Amal further develops, our staff takes every opportunity to share the gospel to her. In addition to the Humanitarian aid that Amal and her family receives, Heart for Lebanon also designates time to visit with her and listen to her joys as well as her worries.
Driven by the compassionate heart of Jesus Christ, we pray that Amal experiences God’s unfailing love so that she may one day seek him in her life.