By Charles K Mark
A fifteen-year-old schoolgirl, Lona Juma George, who temporarily took over as the Vice President for Gender Cluster, vowed to battle early and forced child marriage.
The young and visionary girl is a student at Queens and Kings Boys and Girls Secondary School.
She promised to increase literacy among girls through championing campaigns and enhanced awareness that promote girls’ education.
The one-day vice president for gender and youth cluster advised that it is only through educating girls that women will be able to realize the 35 percent affirmative action for women’s representation in all political positions.
Lona said it is high time cultural barriers that hold women behind are modified to allow women to thrive in their pursuit of political leadership roles.
“We came to get a space to prove the 35% that has been given to us. It is not really hard, but people think it is hard because of the cultural norms that we have today,” the one-time Vice President said.
She also discussed issues of equality and gender mainstreaming, which the leadership of the country must start prioritizing if there is a chance to overcome gender discrimination in all sectors.
“And I believe that girls are going to be equal. Girls are going to prove the 35%. In most of the cultural norms that we are going to see in South Sudan, they don’t allow girls to go to school,” Lona recalled.
she promised to use her office to prove the potential that a girl child in South Sudan possesses and that she would lobby for amendment of the customary laws as a strategy to end early and forced child marriage.
“I will make sure that through my office there will be laws that will be implemented to stop this issue of early and forced marriage so that girls will be allowed to go to school, and they will become leaders,” she added.
The V.P for the gender and youth cluster made these remarks during the commemoration of International Day of the Girl Child in Juba yesterday.
The event was attended by senior government officials, schoolgirls, and development partners such as UNDP and UN Women, among others.
UN Women’s Deputy Country Representative, Rukaya Mohammed, stated that tackling stereotypes related to cultural barriers will require mindset and behavioral change.
“Even where I come from, in my village, those days, when there is custody of resources when a mother or a father has to make a choice of paying school fees, and if the parent can pay for one when there’s a boy and a girl, usually the fee of the boy is paid because the girl is seen as maybe a marital material,” Rukaya said.
The UN Women Representative urged for the promotion of positive social norms that value the education of both boys and girls, with the understanding that if you educate a girl, you educate a nation.
“So, we are also talking about how we distribute chores and work; how do we make sure that girls and boys are equally involved in taking care of the house chores?” she explained.
Rukaya said social norms should be designed in a manner that encourages both boys and girls to share responsibility and also have equal chances and spaces to study.
On the issue of early marriages and dowry, the UN Women Deputy Representative said if girls are equally educated and allowed to pursue their career goals, they can be of more benefit than just dowry hooks.
“If you allow your girl to go to school, she will become a doctor, she’ll become a lawyer, and she’ll buy the number of cows that you get at dowry,” Rukoya narrated.
On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.
The International Day of the Girl Child focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.