16 June 2011 - Children in Juba marked the Day of the African Child with demands to the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) to improve and implement free education, stop forced marriages and pay special heed to those with disabilities or on the streets.
Speaking at a roundtable at Nyakuron Cultural Centre, this year's theme as celebrated by the GoSS Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare (MoGCSW) was "Together for Urgent Actions in Favour of South Sudanese Children".
"Many of us, especially girls, are forced to marry at an early age," said student Mary Konga. "Those with disabilities are being discriminated and ignored, some forced to go on the streets. We want all these things to stop, we need education, care and love."
Wani Igga, Speaker for the Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly and guest of honour for the occasion, vowed to push for an increase in the 2011 MoGCSW budget.
"We must collectively solve the problems for our children now," Speaker Igga said. "If we fail to do this ... we shall regret terribly."
MoGCSW Minister Agnes Kwaje Lasuba said the new republic of South Sudan, to be officially announced on 9 July, aspired to put an end to the problem of street children.
"Together, we can stop all these abuses and negative culture which affects our children, but we have to work hard," said Minister Lasuba.
The ministry has established centres in all southern states to care for disadvantaged children, she said. "But the challenges are many, as we have financial constraints," she added.
UNICEF Director for Southern Sudan Yasmin Ali Haque also urged policy makers to put an end to negative cultural practices like early marriages that are detrimental to children.
"You have to also start thinking of how to stop (the) high bride price in order to avoid looking at girls as assets or commodities," Ms. Haque added.