This Syrian young woman is the first ever refugee Goodwill Ambassador
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has appointed a 19-year-old education activist and Syrian refugee as Goodwill Ambassador in a historic first.
The appointment makes Muzoon Almellehan the first person with official refugee status to become an Ambassador for UNICEF.
When Almellehan fled the conflict in Syria along with her family in 2013, she never thought she would become a good will ambassador, but she was interested in education, she told The New Arab.
"When I left Syria, I thought I would not be able to finish my studies at the camp," she said.
"I was deeply sad when I left my school, but when I arrived at the camp, I discovered that I could continue my studies."
She added that without education, dreams can be difficult to achieve.
"Education is the best solution to face challenges and rebuild the country. It can help change our circumstances and societies," Almellehan explained.
"But I was surprised to see many children who did not appreciate the value of education, while I considered it a priority, especially that Syria has the best teachers and a good education system."
After fleeing war-torn Syria, the young activist lived in Jordan for three years, before being resettled in the United Kingdom.
According to UNICEF, it was during her 18 months in the Zaatari camp in Jordan that she began advocating for children's access to education, particularly for girls.
"As a refugee, I saw what happens when children are forced into early marriage or manual labour - they lose out on education and they lose out on possibilities for the future," she said, recalling that when she fled, the only belongings she was able to take with her were her school books.
"I am proud to be working with UNICEF to help give these children a voice and to get them into school."
Justin Forsyth, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, said that Almellehan's "story of bravery and fortitude inspires us all".
"We are very proud she will now become an Ambassador for UNICEF and children around the world."
Dubbed as "the Malala of Syria", Almellehan travelled in April to areas affected by the Boko Haram conflict in the Lake Chad region, where she met with children forced out of school due to the violence.
Since her return, Almellehan has been working to promote understanding of the challenges children affected and uprooted by conflict face in accessing education, noted the UN agency.
According to UNICEF data, an estimated 25 million children of primary and secondary school are out of school in conflict zones around the world. For children living as refugees, only half are enrolled in primary school and less than a quarter are enrolled in secondary school.
Furthermore, education in emergencies also suffers with severe underfunding.Since 2010, less than two percent of humanitarian funding has been spent on education. At present, some $8.5 billion are needed annually to close this widening gap.