A campaign against child marriage was officially launched in the South Sudanese capital, Juba on Monday.
The crusade is an initiative of Concern South Sudan, a non-governmental entity founded by the First Lady, Mary Ayen Mayardit. The program was launched in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Speaking during the launch, Jemma Nunu Kumba, the ruling SPLM Party’s acting secretary general, urged all actors to fight child marriage, a practice which affects several girls in the young nation.
“Mama Ayen says girls should be married in accordance with our constitution, which says 18 years old. Early marriage will never develop our country and families,” Kumba said.
“Many underage girls die while giving birth,” she added.
Kumba, who spoke on behalf of the First Lady, also appealed to community leaders to help fight early marriages in communities.
“Mama Ayen wants our chiefs to encourage girls to go to school, please help us and the SPLM will also work on this issue,” she stressed.
Mary Atieno, a representative from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said child marriage is a gross human rights violation, adding that the practice in South Sudan affects over 40% of girls.
“The campaign on ending child marriage and early pregnancy is part of this noble journey in ensuring that there is zero child marriage in South Sudan by 2030,” said Atieno.
She added, “To ensure that women have a stake in their future, governments must enforce the rights of adolescent girls, including preserving their dignity by eliminating child and forced marriages and ensuring access to youth-friendly health services to protect youth from unintended pregnancies as well as sexually transmitted infections and HIV”.
On his part, the First Vice-President, Taban Deng Gai said the campaign offers an opportunity for government and its partners to find solutions to child marriage in South Sudan.
“Early child marriage negatively affects our country’s economy and will lead to inter-generational cycle of poverty. It is therefore our duty to ensure our children are safe, provided with better education, health and sanitation,” he said.
The campaign was launched under the theme, “Let’s join hands together to end early child marriage and pregnancy in South Sudan”.
Article 17 of the South Sudan constitution guarantees women and girls the right to consent to marriage. Article 17 also defines a child as anyone under the age of 18, and further states that the best interests of the child will be protected in all matters related to his or her life.
Previous studies found that child marriage in South Sudan is still influenced by traditions, and the main drivers are now poverty and hunger fuelled by conflict. A breakdown in the rule of law is also one of the factors.
Source: Radio Tamazuj