On World Children’s day, children were marching the streets of South Sudan demanding their rights respected and the harmful practice of child marriage put to an end. Dressed in blue, boys and girls asked grown-ups on all levels in the communities to step up and prevent early marriage.
Child marriage is a grave child right violation leading to early pregnancies, putting the lives of both mother and the child at risk. Girls and boys are missing out on education when married early, affecting the rest of their lives. Around 45 per cent of girls in South Sudan are married before the age of 18, placing South Sudan as one of the countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage worldwide.
Today, it is 30 years since the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the UN, acknowledging that children have a special need for protection and therefore are granted special human rights. South Sudan ratified the convention in 2015 and the celebration in South Sudan is a collaboration between the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare and UNICEF in partnership with child rights organizations including Plan International, War Child and Save the Children.
In a national event organized at the Nyakuron Cultural Centre in Juba, children discussed with community and political leaders, asking for a swift implementation of the National Action Plan to end Child Marriage in South Sudan and on all adults to amplify their outcry against this harmful practice.
Two students from Juba Christian Centre and Mahd Secondary school, were leading the audience through the event as masters of ceremony. Groups of children performed dramas and songs on child rights. Children were lead singers on the world premiere of the song; ‘My Right’ by the South Sudanese rapper Johnny Bee, made especially for World Children’s Day. Award- winning DJ Cent, got the whole cultural centre dancing with his performances.
“The message from the children in South Sudan is clear and cannot be misunderstood,” said UNICEF South Sudan Representative Dr Mohamed Ag Ayoya. “The torch is passed to us as adults. Each and everyone of us has a daily responsibility to ensure South Sudan is a country fit for children.”