By Ayen Telar Deng
“CHILD MARRIAGE “ although this act is self explanatory some still fail to understand the disadvantages that come with it , all one would think of especially in an African community is dowry, cows, wealth you name it.
Child marriage continues to affect thousands of girls undermining their development prospects and participation in education and other developmental activities.
The 2010 Sudan Household Health Survey (SHHS) indicates that about 40% of girls are married off when they are still children.
“Child marriage is still a big problem in South Sudan and it partly accounts for the high illiteracy rates in the country as only 6.2% of girls enrolled complete the full primary school cycle.
It also accounts for the high maternal deaths in the country as girls’ bodies are not fully developed for motherhood,” Dr Priscilla Nyang Joseph.
In South Sudan , this is a very rampant act. Child marriage usually consists of a marriage between a child and an adult. Sad , right ?
In 2017 in South Sudan, 52% of girls are married off before the age of 18. 9% are married before they turn 15. South Sudan is the 5th highest nation in the world for child marriage.
There are many health consequences that spiral from a child giving birth at a young age. Children who are younger than the age of 18 are more likely to die due to aggressive birth whereas an older woman will have less complications during birth.
Young children who deliver babies are likely to suffer from diseases and have many health related issues that will hinder them from even raising their own children and also living a healthy life.
A 12 year old girl from Nyal unity state, South Sudan was forced to marry a 30 year old man who beat her regularly. “At any time, whenever he wanted, he would cane me,” she remembers.
Two years into their union, she became pregnant but there were complications. Her body wasn’t ready to carry and give birth. “It nearly killed me,” she said.
“My first-born died because I was too young. I was just 14 years old …. Women are having children too young”
13 year old Elizabeth from Kapoeta is one of the few lucky girls who narrowly escaped child marriage. She was forcefully removed from school by her brothers to marry her off in exchange for cattle but thanks to her mother and other advocates trying to end child marriage, she is back in school.
“I am happy to be back in school and I would like to encourage parents to send their girls to school instead of marrying them off. Educated girls are more likely to help their parents in the long run,” said Elizabeth.
Preventing child marriage will protect girls’ rights and help reduce their risks of violence, early pregnancy, HIV infection, maternal death and disability.
When girls are able to stay in school and avoid being married early, they can build a foundation for a better life for themselves and their families and participate in the progress of their nations.
What if all this was not practiced? how far would we go as a country? how many female leaders would we have?
Let’s all eradicate this act and empower the youth for a better South Sudan.
“Education is one thing no one can take away from you. If you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.“