With government, education and advocacy, South Sudan can end child marriage

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Nyamal, 13, returns home from a nearby school in her rural village of Maar. She barely rests when her dad, 50, calls upon her. Another middle-aged man also sits by, excited for one reason or another. He comes from a distant neighborhood. He would like his son, Nhial to get married to Nyamal before his 15th birthday. 

Nhial’s elder brother, a primary school dropout, married at the same age three years back. He is now a father of two before his 17th birthday. Nyamal comes from a humble background. Cattle are rare in her household, and options are limited. She has only two choices; marry early or die. She knew her sister committed suicide hardly a year now. The government did not make any arrest despite the vice being a criminal offense. 

This fictional tale presents us with many things; first, it tells us that child marriage in South Sudan is not only a matter of law but of entrenched tradition and cultural norms. Secondly, it educates us about the limited choices children have on this matter. Thirdly, it brings out the role poverty plays in the perpetuation of early child marriages. But most importantly, it opens our eyes to the absence of the South Sudanese government in combating the crime.  

What then, is the solution?  

In the Einsteinian view, first, we must monetize the vice. If child marriage happens because of poverty, then put a dollar on it by problematizing it. The good news is that research has found an adverse link between child marriage and economic development. Make Nyamal’s and Nhial’s dad understand that they are not solving the problem by marrying their kids off at 13 and 14 respectively. Instead, they are complicating their economic status.  

This advocacy must target both genders as opposed to the current proposition which focuses on the girl child. We are fighting a long-held tradition; a tradition that has been inherited through patriarchy. Leaving Nhial’s or Nyamal’s out does not solve the equation. It actually worsens it. So a massive education campaign is a MUST DO. 

We also need to educate the girls. In South Sudan, traditional norms have an adverse influence on the girl child. Although there is convincing evidence that child marriage cuts across the two genders, girls carry the biggest load. So government and other relevant players such as the World Bank and Oxfam must inject funds into building gender-sensitive schools. If a woman is educated, the rest becomes history. 

Finally, government intervention is important. The government can play two critical roles; first by implementing existing laws by being more responsive and proactive. So far, the South Sudan government does very little to address this problem. The existence of high and inconsistent bride prices, for instance, explains its absence. Can’t South Sudan do without bride price?  

Then there is a need for empowerment. The government must involve youth in gender decision making. For example, it should give relevant ministries and dockets to women. This works elsewhere as we witness in Rwanda and Liberia. 

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Matai Muon

Blog4Dev winner South Sudan

Join the Conversation

Aleek Susan Dut
July 28, 2020

very interesting point.

Peris Chatim
July 28, 2020

Congratulations Matai Muon!

Matai
March 16, 2021

Thank you Chatim for your best wishes.

Kuir Mayen Kuir
March 16, 2021

These strategies of curbing early child marriage are so applicable.They are feasibly possible.
It's makes a lot of sense to see precarious cultural norms being given an expulsion for good!

Gatdel riek Pajok tut
March 16, 2021

I have agree with statement, and it make sense.

Ruot Kedok
March 16, 2021

Congratulations matai Manuoi muon for narrating the uncomfortable fact our girls are going through.

Gatyiee Liah
March 16, 2021

This is the hot topic since girls are considered as one of the top mean to acquire resources in Nilelotic communities.

However your point is valid but without government serious intervention the donors money will only be wasted.

Stanley Phar Palet
March 16, 2021

Congratulations for the win
U have presented very touching point so
Government needs to shoulder the responsibility for the early child marriage by prioritizing the girls child education.

peterbarach
March 16, 2021

Comrade Matai, I like the fact that U have included the issues that affect the boy child. Our country situation has not favoured us (the boy child) too .