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Save the Children International
In 2017 Save the Children conducted a participatory study with 571 adolescent girls and boys, caregivers and community members in Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Yemen. We wanted to hear directly from adolescents how conflict affects their lives, what challenges they face and what they see as the solutions.
The research found that in all contexts and across age and gender groups, adolescents are exposed to high levels of violence in all spheres of their lives, and often have no safe place or support network to turn to. Boys and girls reported using harmful coping strategies – marrying young, taking drugs, fighting – to escape their situations. Many adolescents expressed how they overwhelmingly feel that nobody listens to them.
Adolescents have been overlooked by humanitarian and development actors in the MENA region. At a crucial time in their lives, adolescents face multi-layered vulnerabilities made worse by a context of conflict and violence. Neither cared for as the children they still are nor respected as the young adults they are becoming, they feel neglected and dismissed.
Despite this, participants in the study showed a desire to change things around them – they are aware of their rights and feel a deep sense of injustice when these are not respected, and they want to see conflicts – both political and personal – resolved peacefully and through dialogue.
Much more needs to be done to create visionary, long-term, holistic programming and policy that follows adolescents affected by conflict through their childhood and protects and empowers them as they become young adults. It is time for all actors to listen to what adolescents are saying, intensify efforts to protect them and provide them with the opportunities they need to thrive.