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New York, NY, November 27, 2017 — New research by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), in partnership with Columbia University, shows pre-teen and teenage girls living in humanitarian settings in Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Pakistan are experiencing shockingly high levels of physical, emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of their partners or family members.

The findings show that systemic gender inequality leads girls to accept gender-based violence and have low expectations for their futures. The majority of girls in Ethiopia (71%) and DRC (81%) agreed that it is acceptable for a man to hit his wife in certain circumstances. In DRC, 95% of girls agreed that a woman should tolerate violence to keep the family together. The study revealed that young girls, some as young as ten, were more likely to report violence than older girls, highlighting the critical need to reach this age group with targeted solutions such as social and emotional interventions, counseling, and peer support networks.

“This study demonstrates the shocking and widespread levels of violence pre-teen and teenage girls living in humanitarian emergencies are experiencing,” said Jodi Nelson, Senior Vice President of Policy and Practice at the IRC. “Evidence shows the majority of violence is perpetrated by those close to them, and this should have major implications for how humanitarian programs aimed at preventing and responding to violence against girls are designed.”

Girls in the study had limited access to social networks and female figures they could confide in, and many had very low hope and low expectations for their futures. Humanitarian programming typically ignores pre-teen and teenage girls, traditionally focusing on young children or women.

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To address this gap, the IRC worked to improve the social, emotional and psychological wellbeing of adolescent girls, helping them build networks of support and feel more positive about themselves and their futures. These are important steps towards reducing girls’ exposure to violence and helping them recover when they do experience violence.

As a result of this work, in Ethiopia, girls were twice as likely to have friends and a trusted non-family female adult to confide in. In DRC, the number of girls who had four or more friends rose from 54% to 96%. In Pakistan, girls were significantly more likely to believe they should be given the same life opportunities as boys. In all three countries, girls felt more hopeful about their futures. Based on these findings, the IRC is calling for more programming and funding focused on pre-teen and teenage girls in humanitarian settings that recognizes this age group as distinct and responds to their unique needs.

To read the full report, click here.