By Otwari Dominic Oromo.
Early marriage is a marriage of a boy or a girl before reaching puberty a social disease of our country which is commonly practiced in villages and urban areas. It’s normalized as a cultural practice by societies and communities. Early marriages and teenage pregnancies are significant issues in South Sudan, particularly in rural areas where traditional practices and poverty contribute to the problem.
In South Sudan, as many as 52 percent of girls are married before the age of 18, and 9 percent are married before the age of 15 according to the UN report. In villages and urban slums, girls from extremely poor families that are unable to provide the necessary basic needs such as shelter, food, and education marry off are married off before the age of 15. Early marriage often leads to early pregnancy, which can have serious health consequences for young girls, including complications during childbirth and an increased risk of maternal mortality.
Teenage pregnancy also often leads to girls dropping out of school, which can limit their opportunities for education and employment and perpetuate the cycle of poverty. Additionally, teenage mothers may face stigma and discrimination, which can further limit their opportunities and affect their mental health and well-being.
The causes of early marriages and teenage pregnancies in South Sudan are complex and multifaceted. Poverty, lack of access to education, cultural practices, and gender inequality are all contributing factors. In some communities, girls are seen as a burden on their families and are married off early to alleviate the economic strain. In other cases, cultural beliefs and practices, such as the practice of bride price, can also contribute to early marriages.
Efforts to address early marriages and teenage pregnancies in South Sudan have focused on a range of interventions, including education and awareness-raising campaigns, community mobilization, and legal reforms. These efforts seek to promote gender equality, empower girls and women, and address the root causes of early marriages and teenage pregnancies. However, progress has been slow and more needs to be done to address this issue and protect the rights and well-being of young girls in South Sudan.
Early marriage and teenage pregnancies can have serious consequences for the health, well-being, and future prospects of young girls. Here are some of the most significant consequences:
Health risks: Pregnant girls under the age of 18 are at a higher risk of maternal mortality and morbidity due to physical immaturity and other factors. Early pregnancy can also lead to complications during childbirth, including obstructed labor, fistula, and hemorrhage.
Education: Early marriage and teenage pregnancy often lead to girls dropping out of school, which can limit their opportunities for education and employment and perpetuate the cycle of poverty. This can also have a long-term impact on their children’s education and future prospects.
Economic opportunities: Early marriage and teenage pregnancy can limit the economic opportunities available to girls, as they may be forced to rely on their husbands or families for financial support. This can perpetuate the cycle of poverty and limit their ability to achieve self-reliance.
Gender inequality: Early marriage and teenage pregnancy are often driven by gender inequality, as girls are seen as a burden on their families and are married off early to alleviate the economic strain. This perpetuates the cycle of gender inequality and limits girls’ and women’s ability to achieve their full potential.
Mental health: Early marriage and teenage pregnancy can have a significant impact on the mental health and well-being of young girls, as they may face stigma and discrimination, limited social support, and a loss of autonomy and control over their lives.
Addressing the root causes of early marriage and teenage pregnancy, including poverty, gender inequality, and cultural practices, requires a coordinated effort from government, civil society, and international organizations working together to protect the rights and well-being of young girls and women. By promoting education, gender equality, and access to sexual and reproductive health services, it is possible to mitigate the negative consequences of early marriage and teenage pregnancy and support the empowerment and development of girls and women.
The civil society, religious leaders, international organizations and the government of South Sudan require immediate coordinated efforts to address the root causes of early marriage and teenage pregnancies and to promote the rights and well-being of girls and women in South Sudan. There are several measures that can be taken to mitigate early marriage and teenage pregnancies in South Sudan. Here are a few examples:
Education: Providing access to education, particularly for girls, is one of the most effective ways to reduce early marriage and teenage pregnancies. Education can help girls develop critical thinking skills, increase their knowledge about sexual and reproductive health, and empower them to make informed decisions about their lives.
Community mobilization: Engaging with communities and religious leaders to change attitudes and social norms that condone early marriage and teenage pregnancies can help to shift the culture and promote greater gender equality.
Access to sexual and reproductive health services: Ensuring that young people have access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services, including family planning, can help to prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce the risk of maternal mortality.
Strengthening laws and policies: Strengthening laws and policies to protect the rights of girls and women and to prevent early marriage and teenage pregnancies can help to create an enabling environment for change.
Economic empowerment: Providing economic opportunities for girls and their families can help to reduce the economic pressures that often drive early marriage. This can include supporting girls to develop livelihood skills and providing microfinance programs to enable families to start small businesses.
Psychosocial support: Providing psychosocial support to young girls who have experienced early marriage or teenage pregnancy can help to mitigate the negative effects and support their reintegration into their communities.
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