Born to be Married

A research report on child marriage in South Sudan

A girl looks out of her classroom in Nyal. Andreea Campeanu/Oxfam
Paper author: 
Elysia Buchanan
Paper publication date: 
Monday, February 18, 2019

High rates of child marriage in South Sudan take place in a context in which women and girls face threats to their rights and well-being throughout their lives. Oxfam's recent research on child marriage in Nyal town, Panyijar county in northern South Sudan revealed that an estimated 71% of girls are married before the age of 18. Even more aggravating is that 10% of girls and women in Nyal are married before the age of 15.

Child, early and forced marriage has many devastating consequences: it increases girls’ risk of death or complications during pregnancy and childbirth in a country with one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world; it is one of the primary reasons why 76% of South Sudanese girls are out-of-school; and, it puts girls at greater risk of sexual, physical and emotional violence.

Yet, all adolescent girls Oxfam spoke with expressed a strong desire to continue with their education. Indeed, in one focus group, adolescent girls said they motivated themselves to perform well in school to mitigate the risk of early marriage since it could motivate their parents or relatives to support their further education.

Addressing child marriage is, first and foremost, about protecting young girls, adolescents and women. But improving the status of women and girls could also be essential to South Sudan’s overall prospects of recovery.