School children in Rumbek at an UNMISS-led workshop discussing how to empower girls and women. The overwhelming majority of boys in the photo underscores a key challenge for girls: access to education.
As a young woman living amidst ongoing violence in South Sudan, Mary Adeng believes her future depends on a good education that can give her the opportunity to reach her full potential.
However, the 14-year-old says that the pressure for teenaged girls like her to marry at an early age puts her access to education at risk.
“Girls who are married as children are more likely to experience domestic violence, and have a lower status in society, because too often they are denied their right to pursue education, employment or business opportunities,” said Mary Adeng.
Mary and 100 other young students as well as teachers from Deng-Nhial Primary School in Rumbek took part in a two-day workshop organized by UN Police and other sections of the UN Mission in South Sudan. The focus of the gathering was to talk about how to empower women and girls.
Participants discussed the wide-ranging negative implications of early marriage, including the likelihood of suffering from psychological issues, such as a lack of self-esteem and depression, increased health risks from complications in pregnancy and childbirth and the risk of exposure to domestic violence.
William Majok, a 16-year old student, urged the government and parents to empower women and girls through education so they can make a positive contribution to the future of the country as a whole.
“When girls are excluded from education and locked away in an early marriage, they are often unable to gain the knowledge or earn the respect and decision-making power that they need to lead change in their communities,” said William Majok.
Teacher Monyping Manyiel blamed child marriage on harmful cultural practices and poor enforcement of laws.
“Yes, it is true, early and forced marriages are common practices among Dinka communities. This is due to our culture and therefore, I challenge the government to enforce existing laws accordingly,” said Monyping Manyiel.