Monica in South Sudan.

When Monica was 15, her parents wanted to marry her off. Photo: Kate Holt / Plan International

Guest chronicle

What is a Child Bride Worth?

Today is International Girls' Day and we make room for Monica from South Sudan. More than half of the girls in South Sudan are divorced before the age of 18, according to UN figures. Monica was one of those to be divorced. Here she tells her own story to the children's rights organization Plan International.

My name is Monica, I am 18 years old and I come from Shabelle in South Sudan. When I was 15, I had a big problem - there was a man who wanted to marry me. He already had two wives and came to talk to Dad and my uncle.

Dad refused to let him take me, but was questioned by my uncle. He meant that it was not Dad who paid for my mother's wedding gift once upon a time, it was my uncle and the rest of the family. My uncle thought that Dad had to marry me off so that the family could get back the cows they paid for Mom. So Dad agreed.

Then another man came who wanted to marry me, and the men began to compete with each other. Mom and Dad wanted to give me to the first man, but my uncle wanted to give me to the second because he had better cows. I was very sad that neither mom nor dad stood up for me. They just wanted me to get married.

Dad went to my teacher Sister Orla to make her understand that I have to drop out of school to get married. But Orla refused. She demanded that my father apply for permission from the Ministry of Education to take me out of school. So Dad talked to the rest of the family and they agreed not to marry me off.

Now I feel sure that my parents do not want to marry me off and without dad's permission no one can sell me. But my uncle has not given up and I'm afraid he's going to get his way in the end.

School is the place where I feel safest and no one can access me here. We have learned to debate and to take responsibility and my favorite subject is religious studies. I now have a year and a half left in school and I hope that my father will continue to support my schooling.

I think the biggest challenge for girls in South Sudan is child marriage. My family wanted to marry me off even though they were not particularly short on food or money. I have two younger sisters, now they go to school but one day they may face the same problem I did. To prevent child marriage, girls must be allowed to continue their studies.

When I finish school, I want to become a lawyer, because there are so many problems in South Sudan. I want to be a judge so I can fight for girls' rights.

Child marriage

Every year, approximately 12 million girls are married off around the world. The number of child marriages is increasing in crises and conflicts, so also in South Sudan where 52 percent of all girls are married off before the age of 18. Families pay a man to marry their daughter. Cows are often used as payment.

Source: Unicef, Plan International

This is a chronicle. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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