Think back to when you were an adolescent and what you used to think about the most. Was it who you had a crush on? What outfit you wanted to buy? The movie you were dying to see? Or what you dreamed of being when you were older?
That was the scenario for the majority of us who grew up in a developed country. Now imagine you are an adolescent girl growing up in one of the most conflicted areas of the world where the biggest issues for you include not getting shot kidnapped, raped or assaulted. The idea of dreaming of your future career would not even be on your radar as your circumstances would seem so dire.
For many girls around the world, this is not a thought, it is a reality. Around the world, it is estimated that 62 million girls around the world today are out of school, and out of the total number of adolescents not getting an education globally, the majority are girls.
During the start of the Arab Spring in 2011, Syria became one of the countries in the Middle East caught in the middle of a great upheaval due to a terrible civil war. It is being called “the worst humanitarian disaster of our time” with more than 3 million people being displaced and forced into refugee status.
The majority of the refugees fleeing the country are living in neighboring countries Lebanon and Jordan who are struggling under the increased amount of refugees entering their borders each year. One of the biggest dangers young girls face is child marriage in order to escape sexual violence or exploitation, and to ease financial burdens on refugee families living in poverty.
This is the reality of many young refugee girls. The question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” isn’t exactly on their radar of possibilities from the outside. But one humanitarian organization is aiming to change that. The International Rescue Committee, an org that offers life-saving assistance to survivors of war, persecution and natural disasters, has a launched an awesome campaign called ‘Vision not Victims’ designed to flip the scripts and allow young girls living in a conflict zone to take back their narrative.
“Through this initiative, we bring together groups of girls to explore their power and potential and cultivate essential skills. Paired with mentors from their community, each girl expands her idea of what is possible, creates a vision for herself, and develops a strategic plan for achieving it,” says the campaign.
“She then designs and directs a photo shoot, posing as her future self, having achieved her goal. Girls share their photos with their families, friends and neighbors, inspiring many other girls to consider their own potential. The IRC partners with the girls to engage parents and community leaders in conversations that explore ways they can keep girls safe and equitably support them to achieve their goals.”
The Vision Not Victims campaign has also been implemented for girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as young resettled refugees in the United States.
“We’re gathering parents, leaders and community members to view these images, challenge stereotypes and develop actions to protect and support girls.”
The refugee children of Syria have become the focus of many advocates around the world, including notable women such as Malala Yousafzai and Angelina Jolie. It is a tough pill to swallow hearing the massive amount of men, women and children whose lives are upended due to a horrible war. It is even more gut-wrenching to think about the lives of future generations being stunted. These young girls deserve a chance, and a program like this where they are encouraged to dream is not just cool, but vital. If you “can’t be what you can’t see” then the idea that a young Syrian refugee girl envisioning the possibility of becoming a doctor, a teacher, an astronaut or a photographer is certainly powerful.
Watch the campaign video below: