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Journal Article


Hattar-Pollara M. J. Nurs. Scholarsh. 2019; ePub(ePub): ePub.


Department of Nursing, California State University Northridge, College of Health and Human Development, Department of Nursing, Northridge, CA,, USA.


(Copyright © 2019, Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing)






PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to uncover and describe the barriers to education as experienced by Syrian refugee girls in the Za'atri Syrian Refugee Camp in Jordan.

DESIGN: A qualitative nonexperimental design utilizing focus group discussions (FGDs), individual interviews, and participant and nonparticipant observation was used for this study. Four FGDs were facilitated in three dropout education centers (nonformal school) in the Za'atri Syrian Refugee Camp. Data were collected over a period of 5 months from December 2017 to April 2018.

METHODS: Using an FGD format, the United Nations Human Rights ABC module in the Arabic language was used to educate, to empower with knowledge and skills, and to elicit participants' responses to perceived barriers to exercising their universal human rights, especially their right to education. Data were collected using a demographic tool, digitally recorded FGDs, an observation notebook, a flip chart, and a detailed interview schedule. Fifteen in-depth, individual, 1½-hr interviews of self-selected participants were conducted. Narrative statement and content analysis were used to analyze the data for each FGD. A constant comparative method was used to compare and verify codes, categories, and themes within and between groups.

FINDINGS: The complex interplay of patriarchy, tradition, and religious practices, combined with the added vulnerabilities of protracted warfare displacement, prevent Syrian girls from being their own agents, prevent their access to education, and expose them to even greater health risks through coercion into early marriage. Several themes explained the process by which the interactive nature of patriarchy, traditional cultural, and religious practice influenced the girls' right to education and their right to make their own decisions about marriage. These are (a) gender role and the social position of girls in the family, (b) gender role and the cultural disvaluing of girls' education, (c) economic survival priorities and child labor, and (d) the intersection of environmental stressors with preservation of family honor as motivators for early marriage. Repeated exposure to threats and physical abuse seem to be the mechanisms that reinforce the girls' perceived gender-based vulnerabilities, submissiveness, and educational truancy.

CONCLUSIONS: Syrian refugee girls seem to consistently face conflicts and daily adverse experiences that pose serious physical and psychological risks to their health with potentially far-reaching negative health consequences. Gender-based physical and psychological threats and abuses, along with the coercive practice of early marriage, while viewed as a way of protecting them, put Syrian refugee girls at greater health risk, psychological threat, and social and economic challenge. Evidence on refugees who experienced violence shows that they are more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dissociative disorders, depression, and anxiety, along with a host of life-threatening physical comorbidities. CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Syrian refugee girls are at high risk for gender-based abuse and violence. Nurses can play an important role in reducing the health risks associated with gender-based abuse by assessing clients for symptoms of physical and psychological abuse, including symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. Maternal and child health assessment and health-promoting interventions should be included in the healthcare plan. Understanding the sociopolitical conditions, as well as the cultural and religious backgrounds, that shape the lived experiences of displaced girls is also essential for offering a congruent, culturally sensitive plan of care and for creating targeted and relevant educational and treatment intervention strategies and referrals.

© 2019 Sigma Theta Tau International.

Language: en


Child labor; Syrian refugee girls; Za'atri camp Jordan; child marriage; education; gender-based abuse; human rights; patriarchy; stressors


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