UNICEF, South Sudan launch campaign to tackle child marriage

Flag of South Sudan with flare and dark blue sky
BOR, SOUTH SUDAN – OCTOBER 14: Joy, six months, was born to a mother of 15 yrs. Early child marriage and sexual exploitation are rampant in South Sudan with many girls being married by the age of 12 or 13. (Photo by Alissa Everett/Getty Images)

South Sudan in collaboration with the UN children agency (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 UNICEF 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 is a harmful social norm that needs 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 in joining hands in ending child marriage in our country,” Warille said in a statement issued in Juba.

According to UNICEF, 52 percent of all girls in South Sudan are married before 18 years of age, cultural practice fueled 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 exacerbates the situation.

UNICEF said it is working with the government to implement the National Strategic Action Plan (2017-2030) to end child marriage by 2030.

About one out of three of all girls in South Sudan become pregnant before turning 15 years of age.

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