Advocating against traditional social norms to end child marriage in Lakes State
Rumbek, South Sudan - South Sudan is ranked number 8 in the practice of child marriage with 9% of the girls married at the age of 15 and 52 percent of all girls in South Sudan are married before 18 years of age because of cultural practices fueled by debilitating poverty according to a UNICEF child marriage report placing South Sudan as one of the countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage worldwide.
During the 16 days of activism (December 9-10th 2020), Save the Children conducted a two-day community dialogue session on child marriage focusing on girl’s education, advocacy against social norms and cultures which is fueling child marriage in South Sudan.
The dialogue under the theme “Let’s End Child Marriage” brought together over one hundred people including and not limited to traditional chiefs, local government officials, civil society activists, women leaders, law enforcement agencies, state legislatures, religious leaders, teachers and Parents Teachers Associations, youths and adolescences girls.
At the end of the dialogue, local authorities, members of the community, parents and youths have knowledge to raise awareness on negative effects of gender inequality and social norms/harmful practices as a strong behavioral change communication to change the mindset of people in the state and at grassroots levels.
Local authorities also realized their role on social accountability to impose rules of law against child marriage found in South Sudan’s constitution and come up with the possible solution and plans of action to reduce child marriage in Lakes State.
“Children are not physically, emotionally or mentally ready to be married. Early marriage means the end of education and the end of childhood. Girls’ bodies are not yet ready to carry children. They risk dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth. Early marriage is wrong. It must be stopped, said Patrick Analo, Director of Operation, Save the Children South Sudan.
Child marriage affects girls’ development and enjoyment of their fundamental rights to survival, learning and protection—it should therefore be stopped. Save the Children is investing in girls’ education, health and protection crucial for social, economic, and political development in South Sudan. Girls are children and therefore, respect their fundamental rights and dignity.
Written by Tito Justin/Save the Children