September 19, 2012 (KAMPALA) – Unity state authorities are calling upon the families of young girls to keep them in school, rather than allowing or forcing them to marry, especially when they are under the legal age of 18.
- South Sudanese schoolgirls (Getty)
William Ghar Bol, deputy director of general education in Unity State told Sudan Tribune that the state Ministry of Education in collaboration with US-based non-governmental organisation, Winrock International, are giving financial support to young girls to remain in school.
It is hoped that this will dissuade young girls from the path of underage marriage.
Bol said the government is working hard to tackle the issue despite the silence of many of the girls’ parents. He called upon parents to “respect the dignity” of their children by keeping them in school.
Female students in Unity state told Sudan Tribune that is a deeply-rooted cultural practise common amongst the Nuer and Dinka ethnic groups. They also claimed that the pride and financial gain involved in receiving marriage-wealth in the form of cattle is a significant contributing factor for some parents.
The focus upon wealth can also lead young girls to marry men much older than them.
It is common practise for girls between the ages of 15 and 17 to marry, despite the legal age being 18. In the last six months there have been 10 cases of underage marriage in the state.
Mary Nyawika Wal a student from Bentiu Secondary school strongly condemned the ongoing practice of forcing her colleagues into early marriage by parents.
Wal urged the government and non-governmental organisations to assist girls in remaining in education.
A report published in April by ex-British PM, Gordon Brown, claimed that less than five percent of South Sudanese girls complete their primary education.