The 11-year Old Girl Raising Awareness on FGM in Sudan
By Mai El Shoush and Hadeel Zahir Agab
When 11-year old Dania Hisham Hateen Elobeid from Al Gezira state in Sudan, was a young girl in Grade 3, she was cut. The first time we met was in Rufaa, Al Gezira state, during a cool December afternoon in 2018. We were both attending the celebration of the last day of the Training of Teachers workshop and graduation ceremony under the Saleema campaign.
Saleema, is led by the National Council for Child Welfare and supported by UNICEF, with aid from the UK Department for International Development. The objective is to end FGM and Child Marriage in Sudan, as well as change the stigma often associated with girls who are not cut. As part of Saleema (as God created her), youngsters like Dania are invited to join what is called the Girl’s Club, which provides a safe learning platform for girls between grade one to seventh. Through the Girl’s Club, Dania learned about her rights and that even though she is cut?—?her voice will always matter.
“I was cut when I was in Grade 3, at that time I didn’t know about the Saleema initiative. When I joined the Girl’s Club, I learned that I should not have been cut,” said Dania, who is an only child. “I went home that day and asked my mum and dad why this was done to me and they promised that if I have sisters in the future then they will not cut them.”
In 2018 alone, 323 Girls’ Clubs were established in Sharg El Gazira and Ummalkura localities in El Gezira. The areas were chosen due to the high rates of FGM. The graduation, symbolized the last of the eight workshops for east Al Gezira locality during the year. During each session, teachers, community members and Religious leaders learn all aspects of the law and health information related to abandoning the harmful practice, from specialists and state Ministry of Health representatives.
Dania, who joined the Girls’ Club when she was in Grade 5, is shy but also displays an air of confidence, especially when she talks about her dreams for the future. Despite the pain she has already gone through both physically and psychologically, she is warm and eager to share her story to raise awareness in the hope it will save others. Her strength is extremely inspiring and she is someone not easy to forget. At just 11 years of age, Dania is still a child, but an empowered one who now understands her future can be brighter.
“I love school and I want to learn to be an educated girl and become a doctor, so I can help others. When I grow up, I will not cut my daughters and I will educate them about FGM and what I have learned,” she said confidently. “They said even those who are cut should participate and raise awareness among the other girls, and that’s why I am part of the club today.”
Dania has also found a way to creatively express herself through the activities the Girls’ Club provides. This includes drawing, singing, cooking, and performing. It is when she talks about writing, that her eyes light up.
“We made Saleema posters in which we write stories about FGM. I have written five stories. When my friends read our stories, they tell us they benefited a lot and they are interested in knowing more about FGM,” she said.
Dania also demonstrated her knowledge of gender equality and knows that the issues of FGM and Child Marriage are not solely for females.
“I think boys and men should also know about FGM because I think if they don’t, they will force their wives to cut their daughters,” she said.