Priscilla, 16, is the only girl in her family who hasn’t yet been married.
When her cousins were her age, they married local men, but having seen how difficult their lives are, Priscilla is determined to stay in school as long as she can.
Still, her life in South Sudan is far from easy.
“I wake up every morning to clean the compound where I live,” she said. “Then I go to fetch water and make breakfast for the family.
“Only after that do I prepare myself for school. By the time I arrive, I’m usually late, but at least I’m doing better than my relatives who are suffering because of getting married so early.”
Priscilla is lucky: unlike many parents in South Sudan, who believe a girl’s place is in the home, her parents encourage her to go to school.
However, until recently, she found it hard to concentrate in class because, like hundreds of thousands of adolescent girls across the country, she often goes hungry due to the ongoing food crisis.
“When hunger struck, I felt so terrible,” she said. “I couldn’t see properly and when I stood up from my desk, my head would spin.”
Such experiences have been a big reason why more girls have been sold into marriage in South Sudan in recent months. Many families are eating barely a meal day so they see marriage as a useful way to save money or gain life-saving resources.
Plan International’s Food for Education program – delivered in partnership with the World Food Program – has been helping to stop girls and their families from going hungry in South Sudan by providing them with school meals and food rations to share with their families.
This reduces the likelihood of parents arranging early marriages for their daughters, as they can get the food they need by going to school instead. We recognize that girls who stay in school – and benefit from a quality education – are less likely to marry while they are still children. And, girls who have enough food to eat while they’re in school are more likely to concentrate better and learn effectively.
Thanks to this program, Priscilla can now focus more easily in class.
She wants to become a doctor to help save lives in the community where she was raised. Her biggest dream of all is to be a role model who leads and inspires the next generation of girls to finish their education.