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Inspired by Malala, this Syrian refugee girl leads art classes to end child marriage

Twitter: @YaLA_YL

At only 15-years-old, Omaima Hoshan is fighting to end child marriage among her friends and community at the Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan.

She was inspired to take action against the practice of early marriage after reading Malala’s book, “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban” -- which her mom gave to her.

After giving advice to her friends on the negative effects of marrying before the age of 18, Omaima was frustrated seeing that advice was not enough to deter one of her friends and their parents from continuing a marriage at the age of 13. She then set out to educate her entire community about the consequences of child marriage. 

In Jordan, the legal marriage age for girls and women is 18, but with parental consent and the go-ahead from community religious leaders, girls can marry as young as 15. In some cases, religious judges (of Sharia law) can condone marriage for girls at 14-years-old.

In Syria, where the bulk of the refugees in the Za'atari camp come from,13 percent of girls were married before the age of 18 in 2011. 

“Girls from my home have their future lost or destroyed. This is something I cannot accept,” said Omaima.

omaima b1.jpgImage: Twitter: @WomenforWomen

So with the help of aid workers and local champions for girls education, Omaima began to lead lectures on the dangers of child marriage. These classes are not your ordinary boring talk though. She teaches through drawing, artwork, singing and putting on plays to talk about topics ranging from the risks of pregnancy at a young age, to the opportunities lost by marrying early.

She has the full support of her father too.

“My dad tells me that I started something good and I should continue what I am doing. I want to go to university and become a lawyer so that I can defend the rights of women and girls,” she told Mashable in an interview.

Despite watching one of her friends enter into child marriage, she has already stopped several other child marriages in the Za’atari refugee camp.

One of her friends became engaged at 15, but Omaima convinced her friend she would be better off talking to her parents and asking them to let her continue her education and stay in school.

“Now she is back in school with us,” said Omaima.

Omaima is an inspiration. We, global citizens, hope she both meets Malala and achieves her dream of becoming a lawyer to continue the fight to end child marriage and #LevelTheLaw