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Child, early and forced marriages continue to deprive girls of their right to education, violate their right to bodily autonomy and self determination, and tear them away from their dreams, both in the world and in Turkey. United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA Turkey works to end all harmful practices against women and girls, especially violence against women and girls including child, early and forced marriages all over Turkey. With the financial support of the Government of Japan, UNFPA also continues to work to increase their access to sexual and reproductive health services.

Hatay, TURKEY - Betül is 18 years old. In 2015, Betül and her family's life completely changed. A bomb dropped in front of their house in Syria while she was playing with her friends on the street. The young girl, who was hit by a piece of shrapnel, came back from the dead. The doctor said that if she was operated on, Betül could have some impairments or even lose her life, thus, that piece would now become a part of Betül's body. After this incident, Betül and her family fled to Turkey.

“That piece is still on my back. I shouldn't be lifting heavy things. Other than that I have no problem. But my father was very scared for us after this incident. That's why we decided to leave Syria”, explains Betül.

Betül felt safer in Turkey, but there was another challenge. Her parents wanted her to get married at a child age.

“Girls are married off when they are still children in Syria. We heard a lot about a 15-year-old girl getting married and giving birth, and in the end, we would hear that the girl or her baby was dead. My mother didn't want me to go to the school either, she wanted to get me married." says Betül.

In fact, she says that she was also afraid of studying in Turkey at first because she did not know Turkish. That’s why she describes the Youth Center in Hatay as a life-changing place for her.

“I came to this center to get empowered. First I attended Turkish speaking clubs and learned the language so I wasn't afraid of studying in Turkey anymore,” Betül summarizes how she met the center. Betül's biggest dream, in her words; “I want to study not to get married at a young age”, came true with the Youth Center right after that.

Betül, who also started receiving psychosocial support from the center, says that this service has changed her life: “My mother didn't want me to study. I talked to the psychologist here and explained my situation. They guided me how to talk with my family”

Betül talked to her family immediately and finally convinced them; “I talked to my family in detail and said that I didn't want to get married at a young age, I wanted to study and I convinced them. I'm in the 12th grade now, I hope to go to university,” says Betül. “Studying is the most important thing for me right now,” she adds.

Betül did not only receive this vital support that would help to achieve her dreams at the Hatay Youth Center, which operates within the scope of the "Supporting Young Refugees Program" operated by UNFPA Turkey in cooperation with the Youth Approaches to Health Association (Y-Peer Turkey) with the financial support of the Japanese Government.

In addition to Turkish speaking clubs at the center, Betül also attended awareness raising sessions on sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence . With the guidance of the psychologist and the nurse at the center, she benefited from dignity kits and participated in the social cohesion activities. She became a member of the Youth Advisory Boards and expressed her problems, needs, and solution suggestions with her peers as a young person.

Betül, saying that she shared everything that learned at the center with her family, has felt much stronger and hopeful now: “I came here and they told me a lot, taught me a lot. I have been empowered here. I have to study. I want to continue studying pharmacy or business in university. I want to support my family. I am grateful to everyone who supports me in this center.”

With the financial support of Government of Japan and in cooperation with Youth Approaches to Health Association (Y-Peer Turkey), UNFPA Turkey provides sexual and reproductive health, social protection and empowerment services to thousands of girls and young people like Betül through its four Youth Centers in Ankara, Diyarbakır, Hatay and İzmir within the scope of the “Supporting Young Refugees Program” to ensure that every young person is able to fulfill their potential.