A Safe Space for Displaced Syrian Girls to Help Each Other Navigate Puberty

Leveraging storytelling and tween culture to put girls in the driver’s seat

For girls in the Za’atari Refugee Camp, there is no safe place to learn about puberty. Myths and misinformation about health and hygiene are pervasive, and cultural taboos often leave girls feeling a sense of shame. 

As part of the Amplify program, IDEO​.org partnered with Mercy Corps Jordan to create a program that turns that dynamic on its head. 

Together with the girls, we co-created an immersive experience, WISE Girls, where lessons about puberty and life skills are taught through storytelling and self-organized group activities. In this judgment-free zone, teens support tweens through the physical and social elements of puberty, replacing stigma with strong peer relationships, clear information, and personal empowerment. 

In order to ensure the health information is consistent and reliable, the program’s more practical information is anchored in a storybook. Older girls read the book to their younger peers, introducing the character of Zahra, an 11-year-old who wakes up with blood in her underwear and embarks on a fantastical and awkward journey that equips her for the changes to come. In order to help cement the lessons taught in the book, the older girls have the freedom to develop their own games and activities in each session, building their own confidence and leadership skills along the way. 

In addition to attending the sessions, girls in the WISE Girls program also receive a care package of information and local products that can help them navigate the necessities when, like Zahra, the day comes for their own journey to begin.

WISE Girls is being implemented both Zaatari and Azraq camps in Jordan, with plans to expand regionally. In their pilot, 93.7% of girls reported increased knowledge and confidence around managing puberty.

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