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REAL: Let Girls Learn in Conflict Settings

Let girls learn in conflict settings


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Project summary

Around 60 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations. With the crisis reaching the borders of Europe, concerns for the plight of refugees has hit international headlines. Yet the impact of conflict has far wider-reaching consequences, with millions of people in some of the world's poorest countries displaced for years if not decades.

Beyond the statistics, displacement impacts on people's lives. Children are especially affected, with girls particularly vulnerable. Families see education as vital to give some normalcy to their children's lives, to provide them with physiological support, and to give them a hope for their future. Yet policymakers often do not consider education a priority in humanitarian settings with potential long-term repercussions: once children's education is disrupted it can never be retrieved.

Building on Michelle Obama's Let Girls Learn initiative and in recognition of education's importance in conflict settings, this project draws attention to the most pressing issues facing adolescent girls in their educational journeys, and seeks to identify policy-relevant solutions.

During First Lady Michelle Obama's visit to the UK in June 2015, as part of the Let Girls Learn initiative, the REAL Centre committed to working with partners to build an evidence-base around increasing access to education and enhancing learning for girls in conflict and crisis situations, including in refugee and internally displaced person settings. Following from the announcement of this initiative, the University of Cambridge and Georgetown University in Washington DC co-hosted a high-level roundtable that brought together key stakeholders to identify the biggest challenges to girls' education in conflict settings, with the aim of developing a research agenda that will provide policymakers with evidence-based policy recommendations.

Building on this, the REAL Centre is undertaking research on adolescent girls' education. The mixed method pilot study will focus on Syrian refugees in Jordan will focus on overcoming difficulties that girls face in the transitions from the home to school and from primary to secondary school. The study will examine how the education of Syrian adolescent girls living in Jordan has been affected, and explore the necessary measures to improve their educational opportunities in the short and long term.

Research team:

Professor Pauline Rose
Dr Kata Fulop
Ms Hiba Salem
Ms Asma Zubairi

International Partners:

University of Georgetown
Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security
Georgetown Institute for the Study of International Migration


Vice-Chancellor's Endowment Fund


Starting June 2015


Salem, H. 2018 The Voices of Reason: Learning from Syrian Refugee Students in Jordan.Policy Paper No. 18/3. REAL Centre, University of Cambridge.

Salem, H. 2018 The Transitions Adolescent Girls Face: Education in Conflict-Affected Settings. REAL Centre, University of Cambridge.

Zubairi, A., Rose, P. 2016 Supporting primary and secondary education for refugees: the role of international financing.  Malala Fund.

Blogs and News Items:

PhD student’s flight from Syria inspires educational research, Times Higher Education, 2018

Why are 63 million girls missing out on education? - podcast, The Guardian, 19 September 2016

Rape, murder, forced marriage: what girls in conflict zones get instead of education, The Conversation, 20 May 2016

Why are so many children around the world out of school? - podcast, The Guardian, 19 May 2016

Let Girls Learn in Conflict Settings, University of Cambridge News, 9 December 2015

Michelle Obama Thrills London Pupils As She Promotes Let Girls Learn On UK Visit, Huffington Post, 16 June 2015

Transforming Girls' Lives through Education, Forbes, 15 June 2015

Click for references from 'Disrupted education journeys for adolescent girls in conflict settings' Infographic.

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