Dowry and Division: Youth and State Building in South Sudan

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This is one in a series of United States Institute of Peace special reports on state-building in the Republic of South Sudan following its creation on July 9, 2011. Each report analyzes an aspect of the state-building challenge and recommends priorities for the government of South Sudan. This report assesses the situation, priorities, and expectations of South Sudan’s massive youth population in the context of building the new nation. Drawing from field interviews with youth, adults, and government and nongovernment officials in the capital, Juba, the mainly pastoralist oil-rich state of Unity, and the mainly agricultural state of Western Equatoria, this report found that strikingly conservative cultural norms are mixing with new social and economic changes to create a host of pressing challenges. The report highlights the impact of dramatic dowry (bride price) inflation on youth and finds that it is stimulating rises in insecurity, crime, and population growth while intensifying threats against and control over female youth.

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Marc Sommers

Researcher at the African Studies Center at Boston University, USA
Marc Sommers is an internationally recognized expert on youth concerns in war and post-war countries. After serving as the headmaster of a girls’ school in Kenya and directing a Red Cross-sponsored community health program in New York, Marc earned his Ph.D. in anthropology from Boston University, choosing as his dissertation topic the plight of Burundi refugee youth who were hiding illegally in urban Tanzania.

In his career as an academic and practitioner, Sommers’ research continues to focus on African youth. He has taught at The Fletcher School, Tufts University and consulted for a wide array of agencies and institutes, carrying out assessment and evaluation work that largely focused on gender, education, child soldier, conflict negotiation, urbanization and coordination issues, in addition to youth.

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