MIRI: Teenage marriage is still common among the Penan community in the interior of Baram, said Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau.
He warned the practice would not benefit the community or the teenagers and their families.
“Some of them are as young as 15 years old, school dropouts, and after completing Form 3, 5, and 6. After dropping out, failing in examinations or completing school, as if giving up hope for a better life and with nothing better to do, they could only think of getting married and having a family,” he said during the Youth Worship and Sports Carnival in Long Lilim recently.
“Teen marriages will not bring benefit to the community apart from increasing the population of the Penan community. They are still not mature in thinking and without jobs. How are they going to support families of their own and improve the socio-economy of the family and community as a whole?”
He advised Penan youths to think carefully and called on parents to discourage their children from getting married too early.
“Concentrate on your studies while you are in school and you should be thinking of ways to improve the socioeconomic status of the family and community.
“Getting married is not the way out of poverty. You and your community will continue to live in poverty with more mouths to feed if you start a family without the financial means to support it,” he pointed out.
Dennis said if the youths did not succeed academically, they could still excel by getting skills training.
“There are many institutions that provide skills and technical training that enable you to be gainfully employed and start your own business.
“Some are getting better salaries than those with academic qualifications,” he said.
He also advised the Penan community to utilise their land, culture, and heritage to generate an income.
“Take up modern farming by cultivating your lands rather than leaving them idle and just as an inheritance for future generations. Those with skilful hands and creative minds, especially women, may
exploit your culture and heritage to generate income through handicraft making and culinary skills,” he suggested.
More than 500 Borneo Evangelical Mission (BEM) youths from Penan settlements took part in the carnival.