Anera Launches ‘The Sama Project’ to Mitigate Child Marriage in Lebanon
September 27, 2021 | Washington, DC — Despite decades of progress, many women and girls are still denied the fundamental human rights of health, education, economic opportunities, and a life free from violence. In response, Anera is launching a two-year program in Lebanon to address one of the most pervasive hurdles to gender equality today: child, early, and forced marriage.
The pilot program is titled The Sama Project. Sama is both an acronym for Safeguarding Adolescents through Meaningful Assistance, as well as an Arabic word meaning ‘sky.’ The choice of this name underscores the program’s core belief that the sky’s the limit for all young girls.
The Sama Project is funded by the Forth Foundation, a private charity, which turned to Anera to design and implement the program. Forth also enlisted Dr. Anju Malhotra, an internationally known expert on child marriage, and principal visiting fellow at the UN University’s International Institute for Global Health, as project advisor.
“We are sadly living in a world where the childhood of millions of girls is lost and the possibility of their having a healthy and prosperous future is stifled because they are married during their teen years,” says Malhotra. “Making sure that these girls have a chance at a real future is so critical, not just to protect their rights and well-being, but also to ensure that the next generation is not a lost generation.”
There are an estimated 650 million child brides worldwide. In Lebanon, this problem is particularly acute among displaced populations. Some 40% of Syrian refugee women aged 20-24, for instance, are married before the age of 18.
Global and regional evidence shows that the most effective way to combat child marriage is through providing conditional cash for schooling. Since girls are often considered an economic burden on families, economic assistance tailored to exclusively support the education of girls is essential to break the cycle of dropping out of school and child marriage. Anera’s new initiative is designed to do just that.
Lebanon’s recent economic collapse has greatly increased unemployment rates, especially among Syrian refugees. Facing unprecedented economic hardships, families view early marriage as an opportunity to decrease their financial burdens and help girls meet their own needs for survival. The new project will directly benefit at least 600 girls from refugee and host communities in the Akkar region of northern Lebanon.
“Far too many girls are forced into marriages because their families are desperate, especially during times of economic crisis like we are seeing now,” said Samar El-Yassir, Anera’s country director in Lebanon. “Together we will create a brighter future for women and girls in Lebanon by investing in innovative solutions to end the practice of child, early, and forced marriage.”
The Sama Project is a unique, holistic and multi-dimensional initiative that combines education support to families benefiting from a poverty-reduction program with the engagement of advocates from the community to change the norms in Lebanon. To ensure the long-term success of this intervention, Anera will engage members of the community and train groups of community influencers on the importance of girls’ continued education, with the goal of eventually changing community norms that promote child marriage.
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