Recognising and celebrating brave young refugee and migrant women
Each year around 3000 children seek protection in the UK by themselves, having fled war, violence or abuse in places like Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.
Over this past year I've had the privilege of meeting some of these brave young people who shared their experiences with me. They told me about how they escaped from their country, and how sad they were at having to leave their families but grateful for the safety they found in the UK. Many told me about their experiences of claiming asylum in the UK - in the Into the Unknown report - and the uncertainty they felt not knowing what will happen to them.
Some of the young women that I spoke to about their journey through the asylum process – alone, as children – told me how powerless they felt when their stories weren't believed by social workers and immigration officials. Some were told that they were lying about their age while others were not believed when they disclosed experiences of abuse and exploitation.
Violence against girls
This year we have seen countless examples of the dangers faced by children, particularly girls, around the world.
In October, 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan was shot in the head for campaigning for girls' education. Last week we heard about how a girl in Afghanistan was beheaded for rejecting a marriage proposal.
As part of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25 November, we were reminded that millions of women and girls around the world are assaulted, beaten, raped, mutilated or even murdered.
The recent interim report by the office of the children's commissioner for England highlighted that violence against and sexual exploitation of girls is widespread in the UK as well. Sadly these girls are often met with a 'culture of disbelief' within their communities and by the very agencies that are meant to protect them.
Nominate young migrants for recognition
Empowering girls and young women is essential in making sure their voices are heard and that their experiences bring about desperately needed change within our society.
One of the ways in which this can be done is by recognising and celebrating the amazing contributions made by young migrant and refugee women living in the UK, who despite the incredible hardship they've faced and unimaginable traumas they've suffered, still manage to build a new life for themselves as well as contributing so much to our society.
The Migrant and Refugee Woman of the Year Awards were set up precisely for this reason - please watch a video about the awards. The honour recognises and celebrates women who have overcome challenges, and help and inspire others to succeed.
There are two categories for migrant and refugee women this year, one for women under age 30 and one for those who are 30 or older.
Do you know of a young person to nominate?
If so, this is the final week to do so - the deadline is 5pm on Friday 7 December. Learn more about the awards, eligibility and the nomination process at the Migrant and Refugee Woman of the Year awards website.