SEATTLE — Girl Up ambassador, actress, and model Cara Delevingne visited refugee camps in Uganda last month to raise awareness for the educational programs currently being constructed to advocate for adolescent refugee girls.
Together, Girl Up and the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have focused their efforts in Uganda on protection and educational opportunities for refugee children. Over the past year, 600,000 South Sudanese refugees have migrated to Uganda, 85 percent of whom are women and children. Currently, two-thirds of South Sudanese refugees in Uganda are below the age of 18 and 50 percent of these do not receive schooling.
With an overabundance of children to accommodate, educational opportunities are limited by insufficient supplies and language barriers. Through recent fundraising efforts, UNHCR was able to provide a year’s supply of uniforms, textbooks, and other educational materials for 4,414 girls. Since UNHCR’s efforts in Uganda, services have been rendered to refugees providing them with food, medical attention, and shelter within their first 24 hours of crossing the border.
Commonly, the transition from primary school to secondary school results in a 45 percent drop among students, especially girls, due to family pressures. As with any refugee population, a lack of education exposes girls to vulnerabilities such as early marriage, sexual violence, human trafficking, and child labor. Uganda is a country where child marriage is prevalent, and the government has fought this for years and is finally making progress. One necessary step towards ending this issue is fostering educational opportunities for girls, which Girl Up and UNHCR have made a primary focus.
Celebrities advocating for organizations such as Girl Up and UNHCR have utilized their notoriety as an opportunity to bring awareness to ongoing global issues. Through her 30 million-plus followers on social media, Cara Delevingne has provided a platform to promote consciousness of female empowerment and the importance of education. “We’re so grateful to Cara for using her voice to show the world the magnitude of the refugee crisis in Uganda,” says Girl Up deputy director, Anna Blue.
In Uganda, educational opportunity fosters a sense of protection and security against vulnerabilities. Together, Delevingne and Girl Up proposition society with the perspective of “you see a girl, I see the future.” By reaching out to girls in places “where it is hardest to be a girl,” Girl Up and UNHCR can continue to advance female empowerment through education.
– Amy Williams