UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on Sudan's Saleema campaign, which aim to end female genital cutting within a generation.
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Saleema Campaign: Ending Female Genital Cutting in Sudan
Chris Niles: You’re watching UNICEF television.
An ordinary day in northern Sudan to Tahani Omar Ali and her daughters are taking care of household chores. Tahani’s expression is serene but it belies a life marked by pain.
Tahani Omar Ali: I remember the day of my circumcision very well indeed. I was five- years old and it was a painful day. I stayed in bed for 15 days after which it healed but for the rest of my life I suffered. I suffered in my daily life.
Chris Niles: Female genital cutting is widespread in the sparsely populated and conservative region. The roots of the practice are tangled deep in Sudan’s social and religious traditions and wrapped in the concepts of female owner. The word to describe it is an uncut girl, is a word of shame.
But UNICEF and the European Commission are working with the Sudanese to develop a new way of thinking about girls who have not been cut. The program is based on one very carefully chosen word “Saleema.”
Samira Ahmed: Saleeman in itself is an Arabic word which means complete, intact, whole, as god created.
Chris Niles: The Saleema campaign encourages conversation not human rights between families and neighbors and communities. The conversation often begins in a none formal classroom where women and girls meet regularly to discuss their health.
Amal Murad: I convinced them by approaching them little by little not abruptly. I used proper logic gaining their friendship. I use booklets and posters and seminars too.
Chris Niles: In a country as large as Sudan mass media is essential to broadcast the positive message of Saleema. But if the materials are modern their dissemination is age old using community forums faith, song and dance. In this way the message is transmitted from community to community.
Wearing a traditional scarf in the Saleema colors can start the conversation the scars from men and women have been distributed in more than 15 strains and more 200 communities have adopted the campaign.
Gamar Habani: We designed these colors as Saleema slogans and this color means that everybody who wear this that mean he’s a Saleema and he is supporting abandoning FGM, this will lead to what to a very wide dialogue in the community.
Chris Niles: Also joining the dialogue are more than a 100 religious leaders.
Al- Sadiq Al- Mahdi: There is a growing human rights movement in the country; there are many conservative and reactionary who try to speak about human rights as a cultural imperialism from outside. We have done exactly the opposite to say that slam is the greatest bastion supporter of human rights.
Chris Niles: European Commission support helps to get Saleema to the widest possible audience.
Samira Ahmed: The European Commission is one of the direct donors and major donors of this project and with support to UNICEF; UNICEF has managed to scale up the project on abandoning FGM during the last two years.
Chris Niles: That support leads to ceremonies where communities publicly celebrate their decision to stop crushing and declare that it’s in everybody’s best interest.
Gamar Habani: The campaign is targeting the communities the abandoning of FGM should not be as a personal act it should as the out for the whole community.
Chris Niles: Saleema has encouraged couples like Tahani Omar Ali and her husband to jointly decide what is best for their daughters.
Abdul Ibrahim: When I came across this program Saleema I consulted my wife we were ready and prepared to respond to this program. A girl is born Saleema so leave her Saleema.
Chris Niles: In reaching this decision Tahani and Abdul have not only given their children lives free from the debilitating medical and psychological consequences of genital cutting. They’ve opened the door to a more prosperous future in which all of Sudan’s daughters can reach their fulfillment attachment.
This is Chris Niles reporting for UNICEF Television. For more information go to UNICEF.org, unite for children.