Girls Roster Project: Empowering Adolescent Girls in Refugee Camps in Lebanon
The Girls Roster project implemented by Basmeh & Zeitooneh, in partnership with Population Council, aims to empower adolescent girls between the ages of 10 and 15 years old who are at risk of child marriage, as well as married girls between the ages of 13 and 17 years old, in the Shatila and Burj Barajneh refugee camps in Beirut and Mount Lebanon area in Lebanon. Through psychosocial support (PSS) and life skills awareness sessions, the project equips girls with the skills to make informed decisions about their future, negotiate their rights, and access sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) and equal opportunities for education and services.
The project also targets girls' gatekeepers, including their mothers, mother-in-law, and brothers, and aims to increase awareness about the risks of child marriage and early pregnancy, and encourage them to advocate for girls' rights. The project adopts a community leadership approach, where female community members (mentors) between the ages of 18 and 35 are trained on mentoring and PSS provision skills to lead and deliver the sessions. The female mentors are recruited from the same communities where girls are targeted and aim to create a mentoring structure of trusted mentors living in the same community, creating a female safe space in the community.
This project has had a significant impact on the girls who have engaged in it. Pre and post assessments conducted on 500 girls who participated in the project showed an increase in SRHR knowledge, access to SRHR, family planning, nutrition, self-efficacy, access to safe and social networks, and a shift in gender attitudes. For example, girls reported feeling able to focus on their aims and accomplish their goals, believing they have a greater chance of protecting their own interests, having friends in the camp and a female friend in their community with whom they can discuss their problems, and saving money for emergencies.
Success stories and highlights from the Girls Roster project include a 13-year-old girl who gained the knowledge and confidence to refuse her engagement to be married and is now back in school and advocating for other girls in her community to have the same opportunities. Another success story is of a 14-year-old girl who became a peer leader after gaining the skills to build strong relationships with her peers and mentors and supports other girls who were struggling with similar challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Girls Roster project has demonstrated the importance of empowering adolescent girls and providing them with the knowledge, skills, and resources to make informed decisions about their lives. By adopting a community leadership approach and engaging gatekeepers, the project has successfully created safe spaces for girls and encouraged positive social change. Although the project officially ended in March 2023, its impact will continue to be felt in the lives of the girls and communities it served.
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