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And I was Born Again

Noora was only 12 years old when her family fled Al Hassakah, Syria, looking for shelter in the Duhok governorate of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The living conditions at the camp were difficult and her father could barely make ends meet. He took Noora out of school and sent her younger brother to work to support the family. Three years later, the situation worsened as her father became unemployed.

One day, he received an offer he thought he could not refuse: marry off his daughter to a man 25-years her senior in exchange for a given fee. She was only 15 at the time. Luckily, Noora was a regular at the UNFPA-supported Adolescent Toolkit Programme and was aware of the dangers of child marriage. She begged her father not to give her away to man she knew was not going to be kind to me. He cried and told her he had no other choice.

“I was desperate, so I decided to get the social worker at the women’s centre to help me”, she explained.

Past experiences would make her right; engaging men and boys in awareness programmes on child marriage and gender-based violence is one of the most effective ways of promoting social progress. The next day, the social worker conducted a home visit to Noora’s family and discussed the dangers and risks of child marriage. She told Noora’s father of her daughter’s immense potential and the fact that she was a gifted artist whose work has amazed plenty at the centre. She told him that if he helps nurture her talent, she would be able to sell her paintings and help him with some income. Towards the end of the conversation, he reluctantly acquiesced, making the choice to invest in his daughter’s future and wellbeing.

Today, Noora takes art classes at the youth centre and, when opportunities arise, she displays and sells her art at various exhibitions.

“Had I been married, my life would have ended but now, I am able to see a bright future and dream big,” said Noora.

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UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, delivers a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.