This year, International Women's Day coincided with the anniversary of schools closing in almost all countries, due to COVID-19: a time of unprecedented challenge for many refugee girls and young women, disproportionately impacted by the consequences of the pandemic.
Even before the pandemic, refugee girls were already only half as likely as boys to be enrolled in secondary school, due in part to early pregnancies, gender-based violence and sexual and physical exploitation. While countries in the region have some of the highest rates of early marriage in the world, providing girls and adolescent girls in crisis with access to an inclusive quality education is absolutely essential in order to protect and empower them.
In order to encourage girls to return to school post Covid closures, UNHCR has launched a massive multi-media communication campaign in Niger and Mali on the prevention of GBV in schools: for two months, radio messages, social media, SMS and automated calls have reached more than 2,000 refugee families and members of child protection networks. This will be continued and expanded through the wide distribution of comics addressing this specific issue.