Voices of Youth from Sudan on Gender Based Violence (GBV)

Youth Leaders for Change: Blue Nile, Sudan

Reem Abbas
15 October 2021

Between the 11th and the 13th of October 2021, the 9th National Youth Conference took place in Al-Damazine, Blue Nile region under the slogan: youth leaders for change. The conference which brought together 200 youth from all over Sudan to take part in an interactive platform on GBV issues with a focus on Female Genital Mutilation/ Cutting (FGM/c) and Child Marriage, two issue that are very prevalent in Sudan. We spoke to three youth advocates at the conference about their work to combat GBV in their states.


Zeinab “Zooba” Salih Shein was one of the bright attendees of the 9th National Youth Conference.We talked to her about her activism against GBV in her community.

Zeinab “Zooba” Salih Shein
Zeinab “Zooba” Salih Shein

Q) Tell us more about your yourself?

A) I am 27 years old and I am currently the vice-president of the union for motor disability in South Darfur state and an advocate against Gender Based Violence (GBV).

Q) When did you become an advocate against GBV?

A) I began attending training sessions in 2014 and 2015 and from the beginning, I felt that I was able to positively impact my community and even my own family. I then joined Y-Peer and became a trainer with them.

Q) One of the issues you work on is Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, what inspires you to keep fighting against it?

A) I experienced FGM/C as a child, and it continues to be painful. I don’t want other girls to go through this experience and I will keep fighting for them.

Q) Do you recall a particular story of a girl you fought for?

A) In 2017, I was one of the people leading the emergency street initiative in Nyala in South Darfur and we would provide healthcare services to people in need. There was a 7-year-old child from Al-Radoom locality, and she was subjected to pharaonic circumcision and when she arrived at the hospital, she was severely bleeding. Her blood type was O- which was rare to find. I remember staying the night at the hospital and working so hard to find her blood type. We were close to losing her, but she survived. I will never forget her. There are sadly so many cases of young girls who die in the hospital because of FGM/C.

Q) Is the new law that criminalizes FGM/C effective in stopping this practice?

A) So far, it is not. Families easily manipulate the process and they would, for example, stop holding ceremonies or inviting people if they want to circumcise their daughters and keep it very low-profile or they would use a male circumcision ceremony as a cover-up. Other people would hold a circumcision ceremony, but they wouldn’t do it to their daughters because there is still a stigma that people must negotiate with. When I go back from the conference, I want to work with the community to uplift the level of dialogue on this issue and activate a pressure group we created to work on pushing for the implementation of the law on the ground.

Q) What can be done to stop child marriage in your community?

A) Child marriage is very widespread in South Darfur state because of social norms and the economic situation as well as ideas about protecting girls. We understand the challenges, but we are also aware that there is a huge community movement against this practice, and we want to use this momentum.



Rania Mohamed Ibrahim is a 33-year-old journalist and scriptwriter from Southern Kordofan state. She uses her platforms to fight against GBV.

Rania Mohamed Ibrahim is a 33-year-old journalist and scriptwriter from Southern Kordofan state. She uses her platforms to fight against GBV.

Q) Tell us more about yourself?

A) I consider myself an advocate against GBV and I volunteer with several philanthropic organizations such as Sadagaat and Sudanese youth association in addition to my journalistic work.

Q) What is the situation of FGM in your state?

A) It is very common in the state even though the statistics don’t reflect it because the state has been in conflict for many years and there are communities in camps which makes access to reliable information very difficult.

Q) Is child marriage prevalent in your state, why is it so?

A) Child marriage is very common in South Kordofan due to social norms, but also the conflict plays a big role in this. The conflict created a terrible living and economic situation and families believe that they are protecting their girls from conflict and from displacement by marrying them young. There is also a perspective that views girls as a burden to the family and this normalizes child marriage.

Q) What is your approach to ending FGM/C and child marriage in your community?

A) I take part in awareness workshops with communities on this issue and we always engage native administration or tribal leaders because their voices are always heard.



Ahmed Toum is a 30-year old advocate from West Kordofan state.  He is a member in the youth mechanism for child protection, a key partner in the 9th National Youth Conference.

Ahmed Toum is a 30-year old advocate from West Kordofan state.  He is a member in the youth mechanism for child protection, a key partner in the 9th National Youth Conference.

Q) Tell us more about the youth mechanism for child protection and your work with it?

A) The mechanism began in 2016 at a national youth conference. It now has chapters in 16 states in Sudan (all states except West Darfur and Gedarif) and in three of them, it is a registered body. In West Kordofan state, we began in 2018 and right now, we have a membership base of 30 members, and they are well-trained as UNICEF supported their training. We are a volunteer group and most of our work focuses on raising the awareness of our community on child rights issues such as harmful practices. We also work with school students and teachers during the school year as a main target audience. In our state, we conducted many awareness sessions inside refugee camps in the state as we host South Sudanese refugees. With the refugees, we focused on FGM/C as a harmful practice and the problems related to child marriage.

Q) How do you hope to continue and expand your work in the state?

A) At the state-level, we want to register the mechanism in the state before the end of the year to enable us to work through partnerships and cover more locations. At the national level, we are using this conference to also work on our internal issues and re-structure the national office and register at the national level as well as register in all states. We also want to look at training needs to train all our members. We want to ensure that there is a new national office to ensure that other youth can take on leadership positions and we can support them as advisors.

Q) Tell us about your work on the ground?

A) We recently travelled for one week and worked on providing awareness sessions in five localities in North Kordofan state, a neighboring state. We had with us trainers who were trained by the Saleemah initiative on ending FGM/C and they know how to work with the community on FGM/C.

Q) Is child marriage very prevalent in West Kordofan state?

A) Yes, the numbers are extremely high. In the society, girls are expected to marry at the age of 12 years old. I can’t give you a number because we don’t have statistics, but in our local context, early marriage is a social norm and because of the lack of education opportunities, there are no schools in rural areas. Even boys marry before they even hit 16 years old. We hope to do an assessment to understand the dynamics and numbers of child marriage in the state to develop a better plan to address it.

Q) Tell us about someone inspiring that you’ve met during your work in the state?

A) We were working in Al-Fulla town and we were doing awareness campaigns in high schools. In one of the schools, we met Haja Fatima, a cleaner who spoke to us about her own experience fighting FGM/C in her community.  She told us that I didn’t circumcise my daughters and I work against it in my community. We visited her at home, and we started training her. She is now one of our ambassadors and she continues to hold awareness sessions in her community.