“I feel like now I can talk about this when people try to push me to get married”Early and forced marriage is a widespread practice in South Sudan. The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) is working with drama as a tool to engage the population in the risks it involves.
“Early and forced marriages are very important issues. They will lead to a dark future for both families."
This was Achol Garang’s first reaction after seeing DRC’s drama group performing songs and small sketches about the risks and violations involved in early and forced marriage. Achol is a fifty-five year-old South Sudanese woman, who recently returned to South Sudan after taking refuge in Sudan for several years. She is part of the crowd of people in a village in the Northern part of South Sudan who have gathered to watch DRC’s play and follow-up discussions.
Adut is a seventeen year-old girl who also watched the play. She returned to her village last year with her family, hoping to resume a normal life. As many young girls, she feels pressure from her family and the community to get married and thereby securing dowry that the family can live from for some time:
“I was so happy to see my parents, our neighbours, my cousins and others are all watching and enjoying the drama. I feel like now I can talk about this when people try to push me to get married."
A young man added: “I do encourage all women in this community to fight early and forced marriage; it has been affecting women and girls for a long time and if we don’t do anything about it now, it will continue as it is.
Earlier this year, DRC conducted a survey to identify the gaps and needs in the vulnerable communities in the area of Aweil in South Sudan. One of the most critical issues identified in the survey was Gender Based Violence (GBV) and violations against women and young girls. GBV in the area takes many shapes and forms including: domestic violence, rape, early and forced marriage. This widespread of violations against women and young girls has been quite a setback for them as they were hoping to leave the fear of war and violence behind after returning home.
It has been proved that one of the most essential first steps in the process of fighting early and forced marriage is to open conversations about the topic in communities, in families and among youth. DRC therefore decided to implement an awareness raising campaign with a local community-based organisation that would facilitate the ‘theme-based drama” that is the cornerstone in the campaign. This initiative has proven to be a very effective way of engaging communities in this sensitive topic for young girls and their families.
At the end of the performance one of the local DRC protection officers noted:
“Drama is fun and engaging; when you have a theatre in open space, all members of community get involved; it’s a more efficient way to reach to the victims and perpetrators as well as influencers within the community, like chiefs and elderly. When you invite people to a workshop, you might not be able to reach to everyone”.