Creating safe spaces for youth and children in Eastern Sudan

How a child protection network in Wad Sharify town in Kassala state is empowering children and youth to protect themselves and their community

Reem Abbas
Child protection network meets, Kassala
22 January 2022

Mohamed Abubaker heads the child protection network in Wad Sharify, a town south of Kassala, the capital of Eastern Sudan’s Kassala state.

We met Mohamed inside the child friendly center in Wad Sharify, a town that also hosts a refugee camp. The center acts as a one-stop center providing a space for the network to meet and carry out its work. It has an office for psycho-social support, an office for medical check-ups, an office for the Family and Child unit to carry out its work in bringing justice to children.

UNICEF constructed the centre to act as a one stop facility to benefit children and youth to advance their protection.

The network is made up of 15 members who are volunteers and it was created in 2018 to deal with the gaps in child protection on the ground.

Mohamed who is also a community leader explained that the network aims to resolve the issues facing children in their community using several reasons.

“We use Judia which is a traditional means to resolve disputes with the support of local leaders and when the matter is complicated, we coordinate with the family and child police unit to ensure that children have access to justice, we work to empower the communities and especially children to understand their rights,” said Mohamed.

The network works on raising awareness about the rights of children and child protection as a whole and focuses on combatting harmful practices such as facial scarring, early marriage and Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C).


Mohamed Abubaker
Mohamed Abubaker, the head the child protection network in Wad Sharify

The network works on raising awareness about the rights of children and child protection as a whole and focuses on combatting harmful practices such as facial scarring, early marriage and Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C).

Facial scarring is a habit that is practiced by some tribes in Sudan and is carried out on males and females. It is very rare right now and this is making Mohamed pleased.

“I am one of the victims of facial scarring and I am happy that it is not carried out in the younger generation,” said Mohamed.

Making Wad Sharify a place with zero FGM/C cases

The network has so far been successful in curbing harmful practices in the community.

“The cases such as FGM/C cases we receive as a network are from neighboring communities which shows the impact of our work and  we receive a lot of positive feedback from the community which shows that people are onboard when it comes to ending this practice,” said Abubakr.

To effectively work on child marriage and FGM/C which are highlighted as critical areas of concern , the network has trained volunteers in different communities and they inform the network if a family is attempting to enforce an early marriage or wants to carry out FGM/C and in this case, the network intervenes.

A few months ago, the network heard about a family wanting to circumcise their daughter and they conducted a visit to their house.

“It was an effective visit and we were able to convince them to quit this practice. We follow-up with the family to ensure that the message has been absorbed. We really believe that very soon we can announce Wad Sharifi as a place with no FGM/C cases,” said Mohamed.

Kartati, a village inside Kassala locality has already declared itself free from FGM/C.

Intisar Al-Sadig is the head of the social protection unit at Wad Sharify locality.

Intisar supervises the network as per of her work with the locality and works closely to link them with the police and state government.

“I think their work on harmful practices is critical, we all went to Tuti island in Khartoum for a few days where we learned from the experience of a group there on combatting FGM/C and we looked at the tools they use to protect the children there,” said Intisar.

Tuti Island, an island that lies at the intersection of the Blue Nile and the White Nile in Khartoum, has managed to declare itself free of FGM/C in 2018.

Fatima Mohamed Ali, a teacher at Wad Sharify B school uses the morning assembly, the breaks and any other timeframe to talk to the students about their protection and harmful practices.

As a representative of the network at the school, she looks at protection from a broader perspective.

“I think ensuring that girls are kept in school is a major tool to protect them from harm. As a member in the network, I work to ensure that the girls have the right uniform and learning equipment to continue learning and this is critical considering the tough economic situation,” said Fatima.

Fatima added that lacking necessities could push girls to drop out of school. She regularly reaches out to UNICEF to support her students stay in school.

Fatima is called upon to resolve the everyday problems inside the school from small fights between the girls and to ensuring that they understand how to protect themselves from sexual harassment.

“I use anytime possible to talk about protection from harm such as harmful practices and sexual harassment. I give them practical information and create a connection. I want them to reach out to me for help,” said Fatima.

We visited Omhat Al-Momneen, a school inside the Wad Sharify camp which has students from the refugee community as well as the host community where we met Asha Mahjoub, one of the teachers and members in the network.

Asha is very serious about her role in protecting the girls.

“I work with the network to share information with my students on protecting themselves, but I also take action to protect them , I have recently invited food sellers to work from inside the school to reduce the sexual harassment that the students face when they leave the school to buy food,” said Asha.

At Osama Ibn-Zaid school inside the camp, we also met Abdullah Idrees, a member in the network, and an administrator and teacher in the school.

The representatives such as Fatima, Asha and Abdullah bring the problems of the children to the network and they work closely with each other and the locality to resolve them.

Every month, the network submits to reports on the work they do. From January to September 2021, 3,022 children were supported with services by the center with the support of the network.

This initiative is possible thanks to the support of the German government and people which aims at reducing the number of out-of-school children and increasing protection for those children who are most vulnerable.