South Sudan and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Monday launched a campaign aimed at ending rampant child marriages in the east African young country.
The campaign, which was launched under the slogan “some things are not fit for children, marriage is one of them”, will see the UN agency highlight how child marriage can be damaging to girls’ education, development and ultimately their futures.
Ayaa Benjamin Warille, Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare, said child marriage was a harmful social norm that needed to be addressed by all actors.
“This campaign, therefore, comes at just the right time when we need to protect the girls as never before.
“I call upon everyone in South Sudan to join hands in ending child marriage in our country,’’ Warille said in a statement issued in Juba.
According to UNICEF, 52 per cent of all girls in South Sudan are married before 18 years of age, cultural practice fuelled by debilitating poverty.
South Sudan is one of the countries with deeply entrenched cultural practices and social norms linked to gender.
“We are sending a clear message that marriage is not for children.
“It harms children, especially girls and it must end now,’’ Mohamed Ag Ayoya, UNICEF for South Sudan said.
Ayoya said low levels of education and lack of knowledge about the harm caused by early marriage further exacerbated the situation.
UNICEF said it was working with the government to implement the National Strategic Action Plan (2017-2030) to end child marriage by 2030.
About one out of three girls in South Sudan become pregnant before turning 15 years of age.