The Girl Generation: Together to End FGM is a social change communications initiative, providing a platform for galvanising, catalysing and amplifying the Africa-led movement to end FGM, building on what has already been achieved. We are also our members and partners: a global collective brought together by the shared vision of ending FGM in this generation. In this blog we share what we want to achieve in Sudan, one of our ten focal countries, and how we hope to get there. As our Programme Officer for Sudan, Tasabeeh Tammar, says, “We want a movement that is really making an impact on the ground!”
Our aims in Sudan are as follows:
- To galvanise the Sudanese-led movement to end FGM, linking it to the wider Africa-led global movement, with a focus on supporting vibrant, youth-led initiatives to end FGM (giving young people spaces and platforms for engagement, ensuring that they play a key role in ending FGM, and that they are linked to wider regional and global youth networks);
- To build the capacity of our members (in particular grassroots organisations) to deliver sensitive, locally-tailored communications to end FGM;
- To amplify stories of change in Sudan and beyond to inspire and encourage even more people to end FGM;
- To leverage resources from existing sources in Sudan and beyond so that grassroots organisations have access to much-needed resources to end FGM.
Sudan is a challenging context in which to address FGM – but one with many opportunities. Although nearly 9 out of 10 women and girls have undergone FGM in Sudan, 53% of those who have heard of FGM/C believe that it should end. Tasabeeh feels that the time is right to build the movement and accelerate social change:
“In the past, people were afraid that their girls wouldn’t get married if they weren’t cut, that they would just stay at home. Now, so many girls who have not been cut have got married, had babies, and they are not having the same difficulties during birth – so people are starting to see the benefits of not having FGM. There is acceptance within communities to talk about FGM, not like earlier. Earlier, if you spoke to people about ending FGM, they would refuse to talk about it, and be so negative about it. Now, people are coming to the middle ground – they have started to get doubts, and to ask questions. So there is really an opportunity to start discussions about ending FGM”
- Tasabeeh Tammar, The Girl Generation Programme Officer for Sudan
There are many programmes and organisations working to end FGM in Sudan, including the National Council for Child Welfare (under the Ministry of Social Welfare), UNICEF, UNFPA, and the World Health Organisation. DFID Sudan is investing £11million in the Sudan Free of FGC programme. There is an existing social change initiative, the Saleema campaign, which promotes a positive image of girls and women.
Because of these existing efforts, The Girl Generation’s work in Sudan is very focused. We will concentrate on the things that we do best: youth engagement, and building the capacity of grassroots organisations in social change communications (locally tailored, sensitive communications that spark community dialogue and collective action to end FGM). We have already started the capacity building work; our first training of trainers took place in August 2016 and the training has subsequently been cascaded to medical students by some of our initial trainees. We will continue to develop this line of work, but we are very excited by a new opportunity to engage with young people and make sure that they are empowered to play their full role in the movement to end FGM.
Sudan’s first national end FGM youth network
The opportunity mentioned above is the recently established National Youth Network/Consortium to End FGM/C in Sudan. In November 2016, 100 young people from across Sudan, and from different organisations, came together for a youth conference that was led and funded by UNICEF. They formed a national network, shared their experiences, and collectively agreed to work together to build a youth movement in Sudan.
These sorts of spaces are essential for building youth engagement, solidarity, and confidence to speak out. They are also a place for building the shared vision that is essential to a strong movement. And these young people are well-networked; they have been engaging, planning, and sharing with each other online ever since the event.
Until very recently, youth hadn’t been central to the movement to end FGM in Sudan, though there have been pockets of impressive activity, such as Ana Lan, and the young people of Tuti Island. This is an island in the middle of Khartoum, where the local population has spent five years working towards a recent collective abandonment of FGM/C. We believe that young people have the power to catalyse social change, both as the next generation of parents, and as change agents who are passionate and committed to making a difference.
“Youth are the key change agents. They are in the middle: they can easily communicate to the elder people, and at the same time to the young children. That’s how they have the power of making a change”
-Tasabeeh Tammar, The Girl Generation Programme Officer for Sudan
The National Youth Network was set up by the University of Khartoum (through the Development Studies and Research Institute, and supported by the UNICEF-UNFPA Joint Program on FGM/C). They have already signed up to be a member of The Girl Generation. Our work with young people in Sudan will be to support this forum with social change communications skills and resources; to link up the youth movement in Sudan with the wider Africa-led youth movement (which is now vibrant in several countries); and to help the network to develop concrete plans and access the resources required to scale up their influence and generate real social change.
Next steps in Sudan for The Girl Generation
Our Programme Officer, Tasabeeh, is now settled at Ahfad University’s Women’s Gender and Reproductive Health and Rights Resource and Advocacy Centre (GRACe), the leading centre for FGM research in Sudan, which is hosting The Girl Generation in Sudan. This partnership opens up many opportunities for The Girl Generation, as the Centre has an excellent overview of the end FGM landscape in Sudan, and the multiple different actors and opportunities that we will want to make the most of. Over the coming year our priorities are as follows:
- Building our partnerships and membership base, including grassroots organisations, the youth network, and the media;
- Strengthening our partnership with the national youth network: carrying out further capacity building and developing resources to support social change communications;
- Following up with our existing social change communications trainees to see how they are using the skills acquired and to capture and amplify positive stories of change;
- Because of the high levels of investment in ending FGM in Sudan, it will be particularly important to amplify positive stories and evidence of change so that the world knows that change is happening in Sudan;
- We will also launch the End FGM Grants programme in Sudan through an invitation-only process, so that we reach those who are currently not accessing any resources, as we are aware that Sudan has had great investments in ending FGM work.