In rural communities in South Sudan, families often have limited resources, and so boys are sent to school instead of girls. In 2019, girls only made up 35 per cent of students enrolled in secondary schools.
Girls are instead married off at a young age. It is common to hear parents speak of their daughters as their source of income. This is because an arranged marriage of a young girl to an older man often brings the girl’s family wealth that is measured in cows. Some girls bring their families up to 200 cows and often, these cows are later used as a dowry payment for the family to pay for wives for their sons.
Child marriage not only stops girls from achieving their full potential, but it also is extremely dangerous for them. When girls become pregnant before their bodies are ready, they often suffer more complications during pregnancy and childbirth – endangering both the life of the mother and child.
The change begins
Lul*, a 17-year old boy, attended the training with his mother, a deaconess from a local Anglican church.
‘The first positive change is that my mother was able to influence my father to allow us all to go to school,’ shares Lul, who is overjoyed that his sister has been allowed to go to school as well.
‘I have also influenced more than five of my friends and now they have enrolled as well and we are in the same class.
‘I have also learnt about the equality of boys and girls, men and women – no child is more important… Now I do everything at home like bringing water, washing my clothes, sweeping my rooms, and I help my sisters.’
‘God has heard my prayer’
‘Life used to be unbearable,’ shares 14-year-old Nyamal*, who was pressured by her parents to drop out of school.
Nyamal’s parents saw her work around the house as more important than going to school. The more school she missed due to domestic chores and fetching water, the more she fell behind in her studies. She was soon so behind that she felt it was easier to drop out of school than continue.
But Nyamal was identified by the school as someone who would benefit from the training by Tearfund.
‘I attended nine weeks of teaching that helped me a lot, it changed my idea about dropping out of school and to love school more than before,’ shares Nyamal.
Nyamal also learnt about the dangers of child marriage. Through the training she felt empowered to talk about this to her parents, who were in the process of agreeing for her to be married off to an elderly man.
‘I explained everything I learned to my father and mother and they agreed that I should continue with my education and I hope I will make it up to university,’ says Nyamal.
The arranged marriage was cancelled and Nyamal has the freedom to go to school. Her parents have also reduced the chores she does to allow her time to study.
‘I think God has heard my prayer – that’s why he sent this type of training to transform people like me and my parents,’ says Nyamal.