"FGM/C in Sudan is rooted in social norms, a self-enforcing social foundation, as a religious duty for some families and communities." Dr. Amal Mahmoud Abdalla

Panel Discussion: Spotlight on Progress "Brands, Media and Communications: Powerful Tools to Shift Social Norms for Girls"

Context: This presentation is from one of the 14 "Spotlights on Progress" video-recorded sessions from the Girl Summit 2014, London, United Kingdom (UK). The sessions were organised to share best practice between practitioners, grassroots activists, and government ministers across the issues of female genital mutilation (FGM) (also FGM/C - female genital mutilation/cutting) and child, early, and forced marriage (CEFM). Girl Summit is a project of the Department for International Development (DFID), UK.

Profile of speaker: A featured panelist of this Spotlight session was Dr. Amal Mahmoud Abdalla, Secretary General of National Council for Child Welfare, Government of Sudan, whose presentation was entitled "Sudan Saleema - Government of Sudan/ UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund)-UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) Joint Programme on FGM/C". She spoke about FGM in Sudan and the Saleema Initiative, a human-rights-based approach adopted by the Government of Sudan in 2008. It launched in 2009, to challenge the social norm of FGM. The word Saleema means “whole and healthy in body and mind”, and the initiative communicates positive messages to promote behaviour change, using the term to mean uncut girls, for example “Every girl is born Saleema, let every girl grow Saleema.”  The Saleema campaign is evolving as a Sudanese social movement, and its messages have reached 80% of the population, focusing initially on FGM and now also starting to address child marriage.

Strategy overview: "Many efforts have been exerted by Sudan government and CSOs to ban FGM/C and change attitudes towards the practice as harmful social norm deeply rooted throughout Sudan. This led to the adoption of the National Strategy for abolishment of FGM/C with a strategic goal ‘Sudan free of FGM/C in a generation’ (2008-2018). The national Saleema campaign was launched ...by [the] National Council for Child Welfare," as a campaign that initiates discussions within families for reaching unheard voices. The campaign is trying to promote the value for and pride of the families that do not cut their daughters, and it encourages collective abandonment of FGM/C. It has reached over 1,500 communities and resulted in over 750 declarations for abandoning FGM/C. The social marketing approach in Khartoum (Sudan) resulted in: a 15% increase in the use of the word Saleema, a 22% increase in awareness of the Saleema representative colours, and an increase from 9% to 37% of knowledge of the Saleema message within one year. In partnership with the United Nations, the Saleema Initiative has been integrated into, for example, the health, education, and the social welfare sectors. Through advocacy and social mobilisation, changes are occurring in social norms, in part due to knowledge exchanges with other countries, for example, Somalia, Kenya, Yemen, Eritrea, and Djibouti. 

From the UNICEF website: "The Saleema Initiative provides positive communication tools that support the protection of girls from genital cutting, particularly in the context of efforts to promote collective abandonment of the practice at community level. The broad objective is to change the way that people talk about female genital cutting by promoting wide usage of new positive terminology to describe the natural bodies of girls and women. Saleema also aims to stimulate new discussions about FGM/C at family and community levels -- new both with regard to who talks to who (’talk pathways’) and the specific issues communicated about (’talk content’)." Click here for an animation on Saleema.
Overview of this Summit Session: From the Girl Summit summary document: "New and traditional media, brand platforms and communications strategies are proven tools that have triggered discussions and shifted perceptions. Speakers will give examples of how these tools are being used to change how girls see themselves and are perceived in their communities, as well to elevate the dialogue on key issues to national levels and beyond."

The speakers, in order of appearance, are:

Susan Shabangu, Minister of Women in the Presidency, South Africa.

Daniela Colombo, President, AIDOS - Italian Association for Women in Development.

Dr. Ben Cislaghi, Director of Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning, Tostan.

Bruktawit Tigabu Tadesse, Co-founder, Whizz Kids.

Efua Dorkenoo, Programme Director, End FGM/C Social Change Campaign.

Poonam Muttreja (Executive Director, Population Foundation of India.

Kate Wedgwood (Country Director, Girl Hub Rwanda) .

Dr. Amal Mahmoud Abdalla (Secretary General of National Council for Child Welfare).

The session is moderated by Eric Levine, Interim CEO Stars Foundation."

Footage of this (available below) and other "Spotlights" are available on DFID’s YouTube channel.

The Girl Summit is a project of DFID. Click here and scroll down to see the full list of individuals and organisations committed to working on girls' issues, as well as a list of Girl Summit Charter signatories.


DFID Girl Summit Outcomes website and the UNICEF website, both accessed on August 18 2015. Image credit: © UNICEF Sudan/2014/Simonsen

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