The Saleema girls’ club members in White Nile say……
“Be wise… don’t neglect my worth…”
On Tuesday, 6 December 2022, the sun shines bright on the playground of Alhumira school, in El Jabalain locality, White Nile. One could clearly hear a group of girls singing in a classroom. The powerful sounds and messages were coming from 20 members of the Saleema girls’ club in Alhumira school. They were conducting an awareness-raising session through Arabic songs – there is a law against female genital mutilation and child marriage, there is no positive impact of harmful practices, be wise and don’t marry early, don’t neglect my worth. These girls were strong, confident, and unafraid to express themselves as they talked about issues affecting their lives.
“Girls need to be protected from child marriage as they cannot bear such a big responsibility at a young age. It can be difficult for their physical and psychosocial well-being,” says Fihaa Altayeb, a 12-year-old pupil in grade eight and leader of the Saleema girls’ club. Fihaa adds, “theater helps us amplify a bigger message – female genital mutilation and child marriage have life-long implications on the well-being of girls or women.
It’s our responsibility as a society to protect and care for girls.”. Fihaa advises every girl to speak up for their rights and report any violations. Fihaa shared that she brings the girls together every month to talk about their rights and raises awareness around traditional social norms that are harmful.
Mzani Al Amin, a 12-year-old pupil in grade seven, adds that “All girls are born Saleema, let them grow Saleema!” As part of the Saleema girls’ club, Mzani reiterates that families and communities need to understand the health risks associated with genital mutilation, and we all must do everything it takes to stop this harmful practice.
Across town at the Zat Elnitgeen school, 13-year-old Tgdir Al Tom explains that “Saleema means a girl or a woman who has not been affected by genital mutilation, who has the freedom to express her ideas and who can guide the community towards keeping young girls free from genital mutilation.” She adds that girls are important for the community, and so we should protect them from all the risks. She has a big message for everyone – “let girls fulfil the right to education, let them make their own choices, let them express their opinion, and let them improve their skills and enhance their knowledge so that they can defend themselves against harmful practices.”
“We are strong, and we can accept the change. Now we know more than we did. The community needs to change for a better future,” says a member of mothers’ council (also known as women’s council) during an awareness-raising session at Al Saim school, Block 36, in Kosti, White Nile.
The Saleema initiative supports the protection of girls from female genital mutilation and other child protection-related issues, particularly through promoting collective abandonment of harmful practices at community level. The initiative communicates through radio, television, billboards/posters, social media, and the Saleema girls’ clubs and mothers’ councils to mobilize communities to shift away from traditional practices and beliefs towards new social norms by using positive language and messaging.
The Saleema girls’ clubs and mothers’ councils are giving their all to end the practice of female genital mutilation. Their hope is the efforts result in big victory for Sudan and zero cases of this dangerous practice.
From food insecurity, malnutrition and disease outbreaks to recurrent conflicts, Sudan is facing multiple humanitarian crises, all of which increase vulnerabilities of women and girls and expose them to increased risks of genital mutilation. All the relevant stakeholders in Sudan, including the international community, the Government of Sudan, and other partners, must jointly advocate to end this harmful practice and protect the rights of women and girls.