Youth in Aweil raise their voices against early marriage
Girls and boys in Aweil area have converged their voices to reject early marriage and demand their right to education.
“We have found out that our customary laws in South Sudan don’t favour women at all. They only favour men,” said 19-year-old Maria Angelo, a female student of City of Glory Secondary School. “They deny women a lot of rights, for instance the right to inherit property, they don’t promote girl child education.”
Maria was speaking at an event organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in Aweil town to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, where the young generation called for amendment of the country’s customary laws.
“Some of the problems include being forced to marry a man you don’t like, and then later you end up getting divorced because you are not interested in that man,” said 18-year-old female student Rachel Achok James of the South Sudan Education Centre Secondary School. “We have come up actually with some solutions: that you should not force your daughter or your son to marry someone he or she does not want to have in their life,” she said.
Captured under the theme “Who is Who Among Aweil School Students”, six participants in groups comprising three girls and three boys from secondary schools in Aweil town debated and analyzed societal issues of girls’ education, forced and early marriage, social cohesion, customary law, and the effects of HIV/AIDs.
Dressed in traditional African costume, each member of the team presented their arguments in a fierce debating contest.
Representing his Customary Law Group, which won the contest, Emmanuel Ramadan said there was imbalance at homes when boys and girls are being assigned tasks to perform by their parents.
“When we went out to conduct research, we found out that in our homes in Aweil, girls are given more tasks than boys are,” said the 21-year-old Ramadan. “And sometimes, the boys forcibly pass on their tasks to the girls, while our parents just look on, saying nothing,” he lamented.
With trainings from the peacekeeping mission in Aweil, the students independently undertook research on the issues affecting youth in the country as part of their preparations for this event.
“The Civil Affairs Division conducted capacity-building trainings for the students in October this year,” said Mariama Dauda of the UNMISS Aweil Field Office, which helped prepare the students for the research and the debating contest.
The event attracted over 500 people including parents, traditional rulers, women and youth groups, members of the United Nations Country Team and government officials.
“Such an educative event should be conducted at the cattle camps, so that our girls who are kept for marriage in the camps get educated,” urged Abuk Ayiel, Executive Chief of the Maper Area as she acknowledged the importance of the event.
The winning team was awarded a trophy and subsequently branded as ambassadors of peace whose work will focus on the elimination of all forms of violence against women in the Aweil area.