Profile: Dr. Yousif Al Kouda, Islamic scholar in the frontline of Sudan’s efforts to abandon FGM/C
By: Issraa El-Kogali for UNICEF
Khartoum, November 3, 2011. To explain how he became one of Sudan’s leading campaigners against the practice of female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C), Dr. Yousif Al Kouda looks back to his beginnings, growing up in the eastern state of Kassala.
Wedged between Sudan and neighbouring Eritrea, Kassala is an area where FGM/C remains a fact of life for many girls and women. According to the 2010 Sudan Household Health Survey, over 78 per cent of Kassala women have undergone FGM/C, while 66 per cent of females aged 15-49 believe the practice should be continued.
“It’s important that we debate this issue in order to begin the process of change,” he says. “Social change in all aspects of life is slow and cannot be achieved without the cooperation of government and families.”“Social change in all aspects of life is slow and cannot be achieved without the cooperation of government and families.”
Soft spoken and eloquent, Dr Yousif presents his arguments simply, reinforcing them with references to the Kuran and Hadith (traditions/statements of the Prophet).
Dr Yousif advocates his views on the importance of keeping girls uncut through television show he hosts, and through public statements and lectures. His weapons are debate and in-depth knowledge of the Shari’a laws and Islamic traditions. Meanwhile, in a visible statement of support for Saleema he regularly appears in public wearing the campaign colours.
As the father of seven daughters, FGM/C is far more than just an academic interest for Dr Yousif. Although his first two daughters underwent the minimal form of cutting (known as “sunna”), he has fought the practice privately within his family and community just as determinedly as he works publically through Saleema.
His reputation has reached outside Sudan as well. Dr Yousif recently joined scholars at an international conference on Islam and FGM/C in Mauritania which came out with a fatwa specifically de-linking FGM/C from Islam.