An orphan standing against child marriage
Mariam is fighting for education and raising awareness on the harmful impact of child marriage
Maha Gamaa & Hadeel Agab Ashi
Sudan has one of the largest numbers of out-of-school children in the Middle East and North Africa region. It is estimated that over three million children, aged 5-13 years, are not in the classroom.
Conflict, a lack of awareness about the importance of education and chronic under-development, are just some of the contributing factors of poor school enrollment and retainment of boys and girls in Sudan.
The most vulnerable groups include girls, children affected by war, refugees, IDP’s children in rural areas, poor children, children with disabilities and children on the move. Blue Nile and Kassala states are among the states with the highest percentages of out of school children.
Mariam, who is a 12-year old orphan, studies in grade 5 in Al’akaf mixed school in Alsalam locality in White Nile state. Mariam was forced to drop out of school when her caregivers decided to marry her off.
The population of Al’akaf is about 11,555 persons, many of whom work in agriculture and animal herding. The village hosts about 60 families from South Sudanese Refugees (SSR) and 200 families from returnees who came after the conflict erupted in the country of South Sudan.
With the support of the European Union, UNICEF Sudan continues to raise awareness about the importance of education, especially for girls. Strengthening the role of the community in understanding and demanding quality learning, safety and protection for all children in both formal and informal learning settings, is also a key objective.
A child club was established in the locality under the EQUIPS supported project and a role play was developed and performed on the issue of child marriage.
Mariam’s caregiver immediately then realized the risk she would be exposed to and stopped the marriage. Instead, she sent Mariam back to school to continue her education.
Mariam is now passionate in helping to raise awareness on the dangers of such harmful practices and on girl’s education. She is back in school and received the highest degree in her class.
Mariam’s story quickly inspired many children in the school to also advocate and raise awareness on several issues, including child marriage.
With thanks to the European Union, UNICEF Sudan is able to continue to work for the children of Sudan, to ensure every child has access to quality education and protection.