We only use your email address to send you the newsletter and to see how many people are opening our emails. A full privacy policy can be viewed here. You can change your mind at any time and update your preferences or unsubscribe.


Our research: In Jordan, a small landlocked country bordering Israel, Saudi Arabia and Syria, we are following over 3,600 adolescents – including vulnerable Jordanians as well as Palestinian, Syrian and Yemeni refugees who are living in host communities, camps and informal tented settlements. Our research includes adolescents themselves, their caregivers, teachers and other community members.

The context: Jordan has the second highest share of refugees compared to its population in the world, 89 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants.[1] UNHCR reports that there are more than 2 million Palestine refugees and 660,000 Syrian refugees officially registered in Jordan (as of June 2018) – though government sources estimate that the total Syrian population is at least twice as large.[2] Of those, just over 2 million are Palestinian and about 1.5 million are Syrian. Most refugees are poor – for example, a recent survey found that 90% of Syrian children in Jordan live below the poverty line.[3]

Education and learning: Adolescent girls in Jordan are more likely to attend school than boys – in part because many boys leave school to work and in part because many are pushed out by teacher violence. Amongst Jordanians, 10% of secondary-aged girls are out of school, compared to 15% of boys.[4] Enrolment rates for Syrian refugees are far lower. Only 72% of Syrian girls between the ages of nine and 14 – and 29% of girls between the ages of 15 and 17 – are enrolled in school.[5] For boys, rates are 63% and 22%, respectively.[6]

Bodily autonomy, integrity and freedom from violence: Girls in Jordan – especially Syrian refugee girls – are at high risk of marrying as children. About one in nine Jordanian girls and an estimated one in three Syrian girls marry before the age of 18.[7] Syrian refugee boys living in Jordan are especially likely to experience violence. Many studies have found that violence at the hands of host community peers is endemic, with violence in some communities so pervasive that parents pull their children from school in order to keep them safe.[8]

Health, nutrition, and sexual and reproductive health: Adolescents in Jordan face varied threats to their nutrition. Jordanians are increasingly likely to be overweight,[9] while Syrian refugees are highly food insecure, due to high poverty rates.[10] Syrian refugee girls are at a high risk of teenage pregnancy due to child marriage.[11] Approximately one-tenth of births to Syrian mothers are to girls under the age of 18.[12] Adolescent boys, on the other hand, are at growing risk of substance use. Up to half admit to smoking daily, and drug addiction is becoming an increasing concern.[13]

Psychosocial well-being: Overall assessments suggest that most Jordanian girls are optimistic about their own futures and feel well connected to their families.[14] However, where girls struggle with depression and eating disorders they are unlikely to receive treatment because of stigma – as parents are concerned about damaging girls’ marriage prospects.[15] Jordanian boys, despite their higher ‘happiness’ levels, report more loneliness and are less likely to say that they have someone to talk to. Refugee adolescents report depression, anxiety, stress and PTSD – with girls more likely to internalise their feelings and boys more likely to act out.[16]

Voice and agency: Adolescents have comparatively limited space to make decisions in Jordan, as the culture emphasises generational hierarchies. Girls’ are particularly disadvantaged. They have far more limited mobility than boys, especially after puberty, and are expected to comply with their parents’ decisions. Syrian girls again appear particularly disadvantaged, with only one-third of adolescent girls even leaving home on a daily basis.[17]

Economic empowerment: Youth unemployment rates are high in Jordan – which also has one of the lowest rates of female labour-force participation in the world.[18] While refugee boys are likely to be engaged in child labour, the jobs open to them are generally poorly paid and exploitive.[19] Girls’ access to employment is all but non-existent.

The evidence base: Our situation analyses (one for girls and one for boys) concluded that the evidence base on adolescent well-being in Jordan needs considerable strengthening given that the experiences of girls and boys of Jordanian, Syrian and Palestinian heritage can be markedly different.[20] Care is needed to tease out the specific age-, gender- and nationality-related risks and opportunities facing different groups of young people, and within refugee communities the different vulnerabilities faced by those living in camps compared to in host communities.

[1] http://reporting.unhcr.org/sites/default/files/UNHCR%20Jordan%20Fact%20Sheet%20-%20June%202018.pdf

[2] Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation (MoPIC) (2015) JORDAN RESPONSE PLAN 2016-2018 FOR THE SYRIA CRISIS. Available: http://www.jo.undp.org/content/ dam/jordan/docs/Publications/JRP+Final+Draft+2014.12.17. pdf

[3] https://reliefweb.int/report/jordan/unicef-assessment-shows-85-cent-syrian-refugee-children-host-communities-live-poverty

[4] Education Policy Data Centre (2014) ‘Jordan National Educational Profile – Update’ Washington DC: EPDC. Available at: http:// www.epdc.org/sites/default/files/documents/EPDC%20 NEP_Jordan.pdf

[5] Culbertson, Shelly, Tom Ling, Marie-Louise Henham, Jennie Corbett, Rita Karam, Paulina Pankowska, Catherine L. Saunders, Jacopo Bellasio and Ben Baruch. (2016) Evaluation of the Emergency Education Response for Syrian Refugee Children and Host Communities in Jordan. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2016. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1203.html

[6] Ibid.

[7] UNICEF (2014) A study on early marriage in Jordan 2014. Available: https://www.unicef.org/jordan/UNICEFJordan_EarlyMarriageStudy2014-E_COPY_.pdf

[8] Hamad, B., Jones, N., Samuels, F., Gercama, I., Presler-Marshall, E., Plank, G., Essaid, A., Ebbini, S., Odeh, K.B., Bazadough, D., Taleb, H., Al Amayreh and H., Sadji, J. (2017) UNICEF Child Cash Grant and UNHCR Cash Transfer Programme. ‘A promise of tomorrow: The effects of UNHCR and UNICEF cash assistance on Syrian refugees in Jordan.’ London: ODI.

[9] Haddad, L., Owies, A. and Mansour, A.  (2009) Wellness appraisal among adolescents in Jordan: a model from a developing country: a cross-sectional questionnaire survey. Health Promotion International, 24 (2): 130-139

[10] UNHCR (2015b) Vulnerability Assessment Framework. Baseline Survey. Jordan refugee response. Available: http://reliefweb.int/report/jordan/jordan-refugee-response-vulnerability-assessment-framework-baseline-survey-may-2015

[11] Sahbani, S., Maysa Al-Khateeb & Ruba Hikmat (2016) Early marriage and pregnancy among Syrian adolescent girls in Jordan; do they have a choice?, Pathogens and Global Health, 110:6, 217-218, DOI: 10.1080/20477724.2016.1231834

[12] Ibid.

[13] USAID (2015) ‘Jordan National Youth Assessment.’ Available: http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PA00KBZD.pdf

[14] International Rescue Committee (IRC) (2015) Adolescent Girls Assessment. Available: https:// www.rescue.org /sites /default /files /document /706/ ircjordanadolecentassessment2015educationhighlights.pdf

[15] Gearing, R. E., MacKenzie, M. J., Ibrahim, R. W., Brewer, K. B., Batayneh, J. S., & Schwalbe, C. S. (2015). Stigma and mental health treatment of adolescents with depression in Jordan. Community mental health journal, 51(1), 111-117.

[16] Ibid.

[17] UN Women (2013) Gender-Based Violence and Child Protection Among Syrian refugees in Jordan, with a focus on early marriage.

[18] https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.TLF.TOTL.FE.ZS?view=chart

[19] UNICEF (2017) ‘Running on Empty II: A Longitudinal Welfare Study of Syrian Refugee Children Residing in Jordan’s Host Communities.’ Available: https://reliefweb.int/report/jordan/running-empty-ii-longitudinal-welfare-study-syrian-refugee-children-residing-jordans

[20] https://www.gage.odi.org/sites/default/files/2017-11/GAGE%20Jordan%20SA%20-%20WEB.pdf