UNMISS police encourage Yambio schoolgirls to choose education over early marriages

unmiss south sudan western equatoria state yambio girls gender-based violence early forced marriages pregnancies education school

Police officers serving with UNMISS urged girls at a school in Western Equatoria to overcome challenges to finish their studies. Photos: Martin Siba/UNMISS

15 Mar 2023

UNMISS police encourage Yambio schoolgirls to choose education over early marriages

Martin Siba/Filip Andersson

WESTERN EQUATORIA - "We girls are often blamed for failing to finish our education, but to do that is not fair. We want to attend school, we want to become involved in decision-making and maybe even lead our country one day, but instead many of us are considered domestic helpers and sometimes also forced to get married when we are still very young,” says Setuna Linda Seduka, who attends the Masya nursery and primary school in Western Equatoria.

Setuna spoke up when she and some 40 of her classmates attended an event organized by police officers serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The session held at the school aimed to raise the girls’ awareness of the importance of education and to encourage them to persevere despite the many challenges they face.

One common and rather serious difficulty raised by the participating girls is their frequent lack of menstrual hygiene products, which leads to all sorts of problems.

"When I had my period at school, the boys teased me. It was so embarrassing and humiliating that I had to go home, and yet this is a natural part of our experience as girls. We should not be penalized for who we are,” said Hipai Emmanuella, another student at the Masya school.

Oana Raluca Breban, a police officer serving with UNMISS, wholeheartedly agreed and pointed out that there is no age limit for education.

“If you do get pregnant, for example, you can still return to school if you have a supportive family or other social network. I’m also urging the boys, soon to become young men, to understand that they have an important role to play by supporting their sisters, mothers, future wives and daughters,” she said.

Attending students also learnt more about how to prevent and report incidents of sexual and other kinds of gender-based violence.