How Gender Impedes Girl-child’s Socio-Economic Progress in South Sudan

Posted: January 24, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Education, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers, Philip Thon Aleu, Socio-Cultural

By Philip Thon Aleu, Juba, South Sudan

girl child education

Let’s educate our girls

January 24, 2018 (SSB) — In most traditional South Sudanese families, a girl’s future was decided mainly by parents and male siblings. Boys enjoy some autonomy in making choices – from early sexual education to choosing a future wife and earning a living by any means (being cattle raiding, stealing from relatives, any coercive channels or through an honest accumulation of wealth like rearing cattle, tending a garden or hunting.)

In contrast, girls were strictly prohibited from unauthorized boyfriends, sexual partners, barred and highly restricted from engaging in activities that garner incomes and their future was nearly 90% determined by their fathers, brothers and other male relatives. Mothers also ensured their daughters follow community’s accepted norms. A girl who resisted this highly controlled life has to rebel. She was cursed, disowned and subjected to extreme conditions including punishments causing death. A good girl is that who does not have sex anyhow but wait until marriage. She can be a fool, arrogant but being a virgin was sure deal to brag about and place her at the top in the community.

Today, in 2018, these cultures have not remained in the 1980s or 1990s. Our daughters (of course I am a father), sisters, wives, and mothers are expected strictly to stay away from male friends (including remaining a virgin throughout their pre-family’s life) and completely barred from engaging in social activities that expose them to opportunities and challenges awaiting them in adulthood. Forced marriages are common.

For example, a girl who performs well in school but has biological desire like boys to engage in sexual intercourse are snatched from school and return to the villages to marry before being “fully spoiled.” Due to their teenage age, most of them enter the family without a full understanding of what it means. After delivering the first child and try to settle as a woman, she has no skill of generating incomes monthly and becomes a parasite. Due to poverty and limited resources plus insecurity in the villages, we, the men, are unable to provide everything women need in town poor suburbs.

The limited resources create tension in the family. The young women rebel and hustle in town, attempting to make an independent decision about her future. Due to lack of skills and techniques in identifying traits in men, she ends up making many more mistakes in figuring out a financially stable man and become a step, or two, closer to prostitution. Families, thus, break up. Local courts are overcrowded with cases of divorce with most young women making it clear that they did not choose to marry those men obstructing their passage to prosperity.

A divorce or not granted by the court does not make any difference. Chaos ensues. In reality, the young women are the victims. The women have no skills to run their own living, they cannot protect themselves against unwanted pregnancies to have a sizeable number of children as single mothers. They cannot manage meager income to meet basic needs and those of their children. The women are most likely to remain destitute for most of (and most often) short life on earth.

That is the South Sudanese woman. Her future is obstructed for simply being borne a human being who has magnetic feelings to opposite poles. That is all. Her future is sealed by biological needs. Rebellious women who overcome these barriers are held in low esteem in the community. Their rating and standing only improve after successfully raising children (that is 30 or so years later.)

Looking to the past, the mistake lies plainly. If that girl was given a chance to learn about safe sex, dangers of unprotected sex and allow to continue with her education, counter challenges and skills that await her at home in adulthood, the kind of husband she marries won’t determine her future and that of her children. She would be a woman she wants; her children will be the sons and daughters she wishes; that is with or without successful, wealthy husband (no matter how that ‘wealth’ was accumulated.) And always remember, sustainable success and wealth lies in hard work, not quick, unscrupulous means.

Today, education is that tool, the skill and gateway to opportunities one can give his daughter, his sister and his wife to prepare for the future. However, training in skills that enable her to earn incomes like bricklaying, tailoring, catering, hospitality industry and others are abundant (note that hospitality industry is not restricted to speaking a foreign language. It is only in South Sudan where hospitality is falsely attached to speaking in English and Classical Arabs.)

The bottom-line is financial independence. It is not just freedom but a freedom from being held hostage due to financial shortcomings. That means being rebellious with a mission to successfully secure your best chance decades later. It is not just rebellion and become drugs addict, nightclubs’ addicts, and every addiction you can remember which has damn future. That is being an idiot! Don’t be that blasted idiot!

2018© PTA

Philip Thon Aleu has Bachelor Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Ndejje University, Uganda. As a journalist, Philip started his career as a reporter for Sudan Tribune website in Jonglei State (2007) and moved to work for UN’s Radio Miraya (2010), Voice of America (VOA) and BBC Focus on Africa.  He is currently working with a diplomatic mission in Juba as a political analyst but the views expressed in this article are not from that embassy. Contact:

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to PaanLuel Wël website (SSB) do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

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