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Jordan: Too Young to be a Bride

Omaima Hoshan is a young, ambitious and brave teenage girl. She advocates for women’s right to education and she also discourages early marriage. Omaima runs painting and acting classes to educate young girls and parents on underage marriage.

“When I got to sixth grade [in 2013], I started hearing about girls as young as 12 or 13 getting married. They would come to the school to say goodbye. I remember thinking they were making a big mistake, even before I knew the facts.”

Learn more about Omaima at

While there is a cultural tradition of early marriage in some parts of Syria, including rural areas of Dara’a province, where the majority of refugees in Za’atari are from, various factors have led to its increased prevalence among Syrian refugees in Jordan. These include the more challenging living conditions, and the precarious economic situation of some families, which encourage them to marry off their daughters to ease their financial responsibilities.

In pre-war Syria as a whole, an average of 13 per cent of all marriages involved someone below the age of 18. Among Syrian refugees living in Jordan, this rate had risen to 32 per cent by the first quarter of 2014.

Working in cooperation with the local Shari’a judge based in Za’atari camp, UNHCR provides early marriage counselling to all individuals intending to marry before turning 18. Such counselling is designed to raise awareness of the risks of early marriage, including the health dangers posed by early pregnancy.

If there is any evidence that the child is under 15 years old, or that the marriage is forced, UNHCR provides extensive counselling to families on the legal, health and psychological consequences in cooperation with the government’s Family Protection Unit, which will seek to prevent such marriages taking place.

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