Syria born Omaima Hoshan was 11-years-old when the war in Syria forced her to flee to Jordan with her family. The Hoshans left Damascus in 2012 and sought refuge at the Zaatari refugee camp — one of the largest in the world. Her main concern when she arrived at Zaatari was to resume her education and make new friends in the camp.
In a report by The Huffington Post, in the classroom, she discovered a troubling trend. “When I got to sixth grade, I started hearing about girls as young as 12 or 13 getting married. They would come to the school to say goodbye,” the now 15- year-old, told visitors from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a United Nations refugee agency, in April. “I remember thinking that they were making a big mistake,” she added.
When one of her closest friends, Basma (whose real name has been changed), told her that she was to be married at the age of 14, Omaima’s outrage reached new heights, and propelled her into action. Osmaima vowed that she wouldn’t let herself suffer the same fate — and she would try everything in her power to stop more child marriages from taking place in the camp.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai inspired Omaima, after her mom gave her a copy of the autobiography I am Malala. The young refugee became a sort of leader in the camp. She researched the risks of child marriage and urged her friends and classmates to share that information with their parents in order to discourage the practice. Omaima has also organized art classes, music and drama workshops for girls her age in an effort to tackle the issue through arts and creative exercises. She believes she has been successful in persuading girls to turn down marriage and pursue their education instead.
The young refugee said she does want to get married someday, but only after she has completed her education. “Hopefully when I do get married, I won’t be living in Zaatari anymore,” she told the UNHCR visitors.