Lebanon has the highest share of refugees per capita in the world, with Syrian refugees making up almost a quarter of the population. Palestine refugees make up a further ten percent of the population, with many living in refugee camps which fall outside the jurisdiction of the Lebanese security services-- and tend to be plagued by conflict and violence. Against this backdrop, adolescents from refugee communities face complex and overlapping vulnerabilities.
Education and learning: while Lebanese girls are just as likely to attend secondary school as are boys—and are in fact more likely to attend university—they remain largely excluded from math and science curricula, primarily due to teacher bias. Syrian refugee girls, on the other hand, are often excluded from education entirely. Of those aged 15 to 17, only 15% are attending school (versus 17% of boys the same age). Among Palestine refugees, girls are more likely than boys to attend secondary school (65% vs 58%), but learning outcomes are declining over time as resources are stretched thinner by growing student enrolment.
Bodily integrity: Lebanese girls are very unlikely to marry as children, but Syrian refugee girls are increasingly at risk as their parents try to reduce financial demands on their own stretched resources and protect family honor by ensuring that girls are safely married. One study found that 24% of Syrian refugee girls between the ages of 15 and 17 were already married. Among Palestine refugees from Syria, 12% of pregnant or breastfeeding women are under the age of 20.
Sexual and reproductive health: two-thirds of Syrian refugee girls between the ages of 15 and 18 report having no knowledge about contraception and less than half of Syrian young people reported that they had ever had someone discuss sexual and reproductive health with them.
Nutrition: Lebanese girls—especially the less well-off girls who attend public schools--are at increasing risk of obesity, but less than half of Syrian refugee girls eat more than two meals a day.
Psychosocial wellbeing: girls in Lebanon have been found to be ‘staggeringly’ likely to be socially isolated. Nearly 20% of Lebanese girls between the ages of 13 and 15 who are attending public schools have thought above suicide at least once in the last month and only 1% of Syrian refugee girls between the ages of 15 and 18 are ‘happy’. Of Palestine refugee girls aged 15 to 24, only half are satisfied with their lives.
Voice and agency: girls in Lebanon, regardless of whether they are Lebanese or refugees from Syria or Palestine, are limited by gender and age biases that leave them with limited decision-making over their own lives. Over 80% are not allowed to leave home when they wish and only half believe they have any role to play in their communities.
Economic empowerment: adolescent girls in Lebanon are not in the labour force—in part because they are comparatively likely to be in school and in part because when they are not in school they are confined to home. Only 7% of girls aged 15-19, compared to 28% of boys the same age, work.