In a cafe in Rabat, Morocco, Grace* told me that she wanted to go back to school. She drummed her fingers on the metal table before adding that she had to quit primary school and that the violence of a war was too much to risk for an education. But, at least she knew how to sign her name on her UNCHR refugee card.
The young women I spoke to left their countries of origin in Sub-Saharan Africa because of economic hardship and war. Some had post-secondary education and jobs in their home countries, while others hadn’t even finished primary school. But it did not matter how educated they were: they all made the same dangerous journey across several African countries and the Sahara Desert.
Unfortunately, Morocco neither abides by international asylum laws nor has any domestic asylum protection laws. Without these laws, refugees and illegal migrants go without healthcare and cannot work legally. Many, especially young women and girls, are exposed to exploitation and sexual violence. The UNHCR and local NGOs are often the only outposts in Morocco that offer education to migrants and refugees.
As the United Nations and countless other organizations note, education for adolescent girls and young women migrants is crucial. Basic knowledge in reading and writing helps lower the risk of human trafficking and exploitation. They can be taught their international human rights as migrants, if not refugees, and as females.
Education in their countries of migration also encourages learning essential life skills. Migrant women and girls learn vocational skills to help them make an income. Education centers become a place to access health and legal services. Migrants can meet each other and use the education centers as a social place for new and old migrants. Indeed, the Population Council notes that because migrant girls and women do not often have social supports in their destination country, other migrants become a source of social support and outreach.
In countries like Morocco where migrants have very limited rights, economies and urbanization cannot improve. However, with previous education and continuing education, migrant girls and young women can learn how to thrive and apply what they learn to their lives, whether they return to their home countries or new countries of migration.
*Name was changed for privacy.
Blog Post Written by: Soyeon Kim, WGG Summer Intern