“I want to be a queen, a strong queen.” – Mary
They live in Nyal in South Sudan and call themselves the “Noura (love yourself) Nyal” kids.
“We should be able to love ourselves more and be allowed to dream about having a better life, a better future.” one of the girls explained.
Oxfam teamed up with international photojournalist Andreea Campaneau following research for the report, Born to be Married, which centres in the town of Nyal where Oxfam has found 71% of girls are married before 18. Andreea went to meet some of the young generation of girls in Nyal and find out more about their lives, hopes and dreams.
Together they practiced some basic photography skills and talked about what being a child meant to them and what futures they saw for themselves. Then, dressing up, getting creative, and exploring the parts of Nyal they loved, they experimented taking photos of each other that showed exactly what they meant.
All photos were taken by the girls.
“I hope I will finish school – I really want to be a doctor one day.” Nyaman*, 14
“I was married at the age 12. At 13, I gave birth to my son.” says Nyaman* “I am now 14, and I am glad that I still go to school, even if managing responsibilities is not easy. Other girls [I know] had to stop school once they were married. I hope I will finish school; I really want to be a doctor one day.”
“For this photography session, I have chosen to have my picture taken with my dance skirt. It is made with plastic straws. I join the church’s dance parades when I can.”
“I love dancing because I feel like when people watch me dance, they forget about their problems.”
I know that if I finish school, I can be who I want to be. And I want to be a pilot. Rose*, 16
“School is everything to me… it’s a very special place because I am surrounded by other kids like me and we get to play my favourite sport, which is volleyball.”
“I know that if I finish school, I can be who I want to be. And I want to be a pilot. I want to be a pilot, like those men driving those big planes, coming to Nyal to deliver goods.”
“I love school and how it makes me feel. When I arrive home, I need to start cleaning the house, do the laundry, fetch water from the borehole, cook. Sometimes, I envy my brothers when I see them play outside with their friends. As the girl in the family, I have so many responsibilities that I can’t even do my homework.”
“I hope I don’t have to marry; that could mean I won’t have time to go to school.”
“That’s why I love this photography workshop, I get to play and hang out with other kids like me. I get to learn new things, just like in school. Most importantly, I can dream of becoming someone else, maybe even become a pilot who travels the world to see different places outside.”
“I want to be a queen, a strong queen.” – Mary
“I want to be a ruler one day. I want to be a queen, a strong queen. Right now, I feel like playing the jumping rope makes me strong. That’s why I love playing it and I want to have my picture taken with it.”
“My baby means the world to me. She is like a part of me.” – Nyakuoth*, 18
“My family used to live in a county called Mayendit. It’s a county to the north of Nyal. I had just given birth to my daughter when fighting erupted there in 2017. Armed men attacked our village that May, so me and my family had to escape. We took whatever we could, then rode a small boat from Mayendit to Nyal. It was a two-day journey.
“It was a difficult journey, but we were lucky we made out of it alive. Others were not as lucky as us. I am just happy that me and my baby are safe. My baby means the world to me. She is like a part of me. That’s why I want my picture to be taken with her.”
In the middle of last year, brutal armed violence broke out in the South Sudan counties of Leer and Mayendit. There were reports of gross human rights violations. According to information gathered by the UN, people were burnt to death in their homes, and women and girls were raped and subjected to sexual slavery.
“I love Nyal, but I feel like Nyal can be better.” GRACE*, 16
“I love Nyal, but I feel like Nyal can be better. If there’s peace in the country, maybe Nyal can be better, and then the situation will also be better for us girls living here.”
Through the Noura Nyal Kids’ photography, the daughters of South Sudan are hoping the world will stand by them in calling their leaders to make the country safer for them by ending the harmful tradition of child marriage.
All photos were taken by Noura Nyal Kids using professional DSLRs.
Child protection policies have been observed during the workshop and in the production of photos and stories. All of the girls and young women who took part gave consent for their photos to be displayed online and in international media, while the parents of the girls aged 18 or less also gave their consent. Some girls chose not to show their faces, while the names of all of the girls has been changed to protect their identity. Married girls under the age of 18 took photos without showing their faces in order to protect their identities.