Meet the activists abandoning FGM
A small Sudanese village abandoned the harmful practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) 30 years ago. Now, their legacy continues as grassroots activists fight to end the practice across the country with the support of UK aid.
In Sudan today, the prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is among the world’s highest — affecting 87% of women and girls. Yet the whole community of Wad Al Basheer led the way to abolishing FGM in their village 30 years ago. The movement was led by courageous local women, supported by men and religious leaders and is now being set as the gold standard. UK aid is supporting the many grassroots activists that are carrying out work in their own communities to end the practice.
A community movement led by local women
Nakhal Almadina Altayeb Mohammed Almansour, now 63(pictured below) represents the huge change that has occurred in her village. She was cut as a child. But she broke the silence in her community and she has not cut her daughters or allowed her granddaughters to be cut.
“I had this internal conviction then that what happened to me is not good…I have four daughters — the community was really putting pressure on me to cut my eldest daughters but I did not want to. I went with my husband to the midwife and he told her not to cut our daughters. I saved my four daughters from being cut.
The movement to end FGM in the village of Wad Al Basheer crucially received support from the men and religious leaders too.
“I support the women in my community — ending FGM is the right thing and we support them.”
Head Imam, Hashim Almubarak Altayeb (left)
“We stood against it collectively and we stopped it. We have almost forgotten it ever existed here even though I am aware it still happens in other villages.”
Alayeb Ibrahim Altayeb (right photo, far left)
Driving change in other areas of Gezira state
Learning from Wad Al Basheer, UK aid is supporting many different areas of society to help end FGM in the whole state — from local government to grassroots activists.
The National Council for Child Welfare is working alongside DFID and is committed to supporting community-led movements to end FGM.
“We are sharing the model of Wad Al Basheer to share lessons with other communities to spread the word and help end FGM.” — Inaam Doleeb Khalil, The National Council for Child Welfare
Supporting local campaigners and activists
Arwa Abdel Gadir is a 27 year-old community facilitator working in El Gezira state. She had FGM and was a child bride, but now she champions change in her local community.
“Some people may not be convinced to abandon FGM but I carry on until they are convinced.”
Sudan remains a very challenging environment to change attitudes around FGM. This is why DFID is ramping up its support for grassroots campaigners like Arwa.
“Some people feel so strongly against what we are saying when we say FGM and child marriage should be ended that they attack us or send us out of the town”
Empowering women and girls to end FGM for good
Across Gezira state and wider Sudan, FGM is so deeply embedded and such a taboo, that breaking the silence is still incredibly difficult. UK aid is supporting grassroots community programmes and campaigners in Sudan (and other African countries) to carry out work in the community, support women’s organisations and girls’ clubs in schools where they can discuss the issue in a safe space. This will help change the perception of FGM, and boost the push to end the practice by 2030.
UK aid supports local schools in the state with the creation of Girls’ Clubs which aim to provide girls with an understanding of their rights and of FGM and its consequences.
“I have learned that if somebody wants to cut a girl, I can report them. I haven’t reported anyone yet but I will tell people not to cut or marry off their daughters. I have the courage to say this.” Asia,10 years old.
Asia wears a yellow and orange headscarf which means she is a ‘Saleema’ girl. Saleema is a UK aid-backed programme working with young girls and communities in Sudan to make girls feel empowered about being uncut, to be ‘Saleema’ girls — meaning ‘as God created’ in Arabic.
Malak (pictured below) is also a member of a Girls Club. She was cut as a young child and is campaigning for this not to happen to other girls at her school.
“I heard that mothers were gathering and saying they wanted to cut their daughters. They had brought a midwife from outside the village to cut their daughters… Immediately I went to report this to my teacher. He reported this to the authorities who intervened and reported the midwife to the police… I felt a strong drive to save these girls as I have seen so many girls suffer around me.”
Working with midwives to stop the practice of FGM
Humaira used to perform FGM but took it upon herself to stop cutting girls having learned about its harmful and devastating impact.
“I took the oath and I stopped and I have not cut any girls since I learned this is a bad tradition and something I should not follow.”
UK aid is supporting midwives and the wider Ministry of Health to make sure that no medical personnel carries out FGM.
The largest investment ever made to end FGM
DFID has announced (23 November 2018) £50 million of UK aid to help end FGM globally by 2030. This is the largest investment ever made to end FGM.
£15 million will go projects specifically in Sudan, where data from community-led programmes shows social acceptance of FGM has fallen an estimated 18% in the last two years. We will work directly with communities, grassroots activists and youth initiatives to build on the great successes of villages like Wad Al Basheer, and to end FGM for good.