The majority of girls who have fled Venezuela’s political and economic crisis do not feel safe in their new country, a study has found.
A study - conducted by the girls' rights organization Plan International - has revealed that rape, sexual abuse, harassment, and commercial sexual exploitation are the main concerns for refugee and migrant girls in Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia.
Of the 452 girls who were interviewed, all of whom are aged between 10-19, 50% say they feel unsafe in the streets, while 21% of girls and 13% of adolescents have witnessed violence, sexual abuse or verbal aggression against their peers.
Being a migrant places girls at risk of gender-based violence
The study, called "Adolescent Girls in Crisis: Voices from the Venezuelan Migration in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru - Regional Report", shows how being a migrant places girl at risk of gender-based violence.
The reasons for this are many, but include a lack of official documents (20%), a shortage of school spaces (20%), early pregnancy (15%), and other factors such as lack of economic resources and having to work.
"When I first entered school they called me 'veneca', [a derogatory way of referring to Venezuelan migrant] they bullied me and told me I was a starving person". (15 year-old adolescent, Soledad, Colombia)
40% of girls also don’t have access to basic health services, and of those aged 15 and older, one in five (19%) told Plan International that they are or have been pregnant. The average age of pregnancy was 16 years old. This contrasts with the expectations to become a mother, set by themselves at around 25 years of age.
Girls face barriers as they try to rebuild lives
Migrant girls have the right to a life free of violence and we are all responsible for making this a reality.
Debora Cobar, Executive Director of Plan International in the Americas, said: “Migrant girls have the right to a life free of violence and we are all responsible for making this a reality. Our report shows that having already endured so much, girls are facing unimaginable barriers as they try to build a new life outside of Venezuela. States, however, must guarantee girls' access to social services and justice systems".
"Plan International calls on the states of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru to make adjustments in public policies, legal protection and systems for the restoration of rights, so that as signatories of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, they can fully protect each one of them without distinction of nationality, race or migratory condition."
More than half (52%) of the girls have been worried about not having food, with nearly half (44%) saying they have sometimes gone to bed hungry and had to resort to begging or asking for discarded food.
Plan International has been supporting Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, and works through partners in Venezuela. The organisation’s programmes reach 385,000 people, 35% of them children and adolescents, promoting child protection, access to quality education and youth empowerment.