In conflict-affected and fragile states, 40 million children and youth are out of school. Girls education and employment opportunities are further limited by gender-based violence and discrimination. Without school or vocational training, displaced youth sit idle in camps, or if in urban areas, they take their chances working informally. Their enormous potential to contribute to their families and societies goes largely unsupported.
Additionally, adult-focused programs that seek to lift refugee families out of poverty by providing job training or economic strengthening to parents can often have unintended consequences for young children, who may be used for child labor to help the family increase their newly gained means of acquiring an income.
The Women's Refugee Commission works to ensure that displaced youth have opportunities to learn and grow so they can contribute to their communities and one day be able to support themselves and their families. Our work with children and youth falls into four categories; ensuring access to education and livelihoods to young urban refugees, child protection and economic strengthening, which investigates how to prepare for and manage the unintended negative consequences of job-training programs for adult refugees, on the children of these workers, unaccompanied youth (US program) and adolescent girls.
For educations and livelihoods, we conducted research in multiple countries looking at the education and livelihood opportunities available to youth ages 15—24. We met with hundreds of displaced young women and men in Jordan, Liberia, Sierra Leone, southern Sudan, Sudan, Thailand, Uganda and the United States. We listened to them to learn what worked and what could have worked better to support their educational and skills-building needs.
With regards to economic strengthening and child protection, we have been involved in a multi-year study that looks at different economic strengthening (job-training) programs around the world, and the way that these programs have impacted children. The research makes recommendations to practitioners who are implementing these kinds of economic strengthening programs, regarding how to make sure children are protected from practices such as child-labor that may arise when a parent gains access to a means of making a living.
Our work on unaccompanied youth is housed in our Migrant Rights and Justice Program, where we work with the US government to ensure that the rights of immigrant children are protected in policy and practice. We have been instrumental in passing laws that protect the rights of unaccompanied children, through work with partnership organizations such as Kids in Need of Defense (KIND).
Our work on Adolescent Girls cuts across all of our program areas. In some situations and contexts, our research falls under the category of Children and Youth, such as interventions that offer livelihood trainings for teenage girls. However, in other contexts, such as in a culture where a girl is no longer considered a child upon marriage or childbirth (even when this occurs as young as 14), it is more appropriate to look at adolescent girls through a different lens, for example, Sexual and Reproductive Health. Because our work in this area encompasses many different program areas, we have created our own Program Category specifically focusing on this group, where a wide variety of research can be accumulated.