"My dream is to become someone super"
Aya's story of child marriage
Although being married and pregnant at just 16 years old was one of the most difficult experiences of her life, Aya* is adamant that she should not be seen as a victim.
The community call us vulnerable. But we vulnerable people can become community builders. We are the base and foundation.
Aya was no stranger to adversity, having already fled her home in Syria for safety in a refugee camp in Jordan years earlier. Life is increasingly difficult for families trying to make ends meet and poverty increases the likelihood of negative coping mechanisms - including child marriage. Now 1 in 3 marriages of Syrians in Jordan includes a child under 18 years, a significant increase since the beginning of the crisis.
“It is wrong what happened to me. It is really wrong. I should have finished my education first and achieved the things that I wanted. That would have allowed me to choose the right person to have a relationship with whenever I wanted. Someone who deserves me."
For adolescent girls with children who want to continue their education in the camp, a UNICEF-supported nursery, implemented by partner Relief International, opened last year to help them stay in school. It is just one of the interventions under UNICEF’s Early Childhood Development programme in Jordan, which includes support to universalize Kindergarten in camps and host community.
“I found it to be a problem to have my daughter away from me while she needs to be breastfed,” explains Aya who attends school in the morning and the UNICEF-supported remedial education centre in the afternoon.
“It’s a good thing they decided to open a nursery.” The nursery is equipped with cribs, toys and books – and professional caregivers, and as it’s next to Aya’s remedial education centre, allowing her to visit in between classes.
“What drives me to seek an education more than anything else is that my daughter needs someone to take care of her. Education is everything.”
I am dreaming to become someone super in my universe.
"I don't want to be something that is normal, like a lawyer or a doctor, no. I want to become something like a scientist. Scientists invent things.”
Being able to stay in school has enabled Aya to dream big and now she doesn’t see any limits to what she can achieve.
UNICEF is working with the Government and religious leaders to prevent child marriage – including supporting interventions to break cycles of poverty and prevent school drop outs – as well as providing child protection to thousands of vulnerable children through a network of Makani centres.
*name changed to protect identity