"Agri Yumma, Agri!"
My mother always used to tell me about my great grandmother’s empowering words during the cold nights she stayed up late studying: “Agri yumma! Agri!” Those words, which literally mean “Read, dear, Read!” in my language, have echoed deep within my mother, who embodied the driving force behind what I do. I asked myself how a woman such as my great grandmother could understand the value of something that women have thought powerless to do. And how could she, coming from a generation in which traditions and customs limited women, understand the critical value of a woman’s education in her life? This clearly shows that when women become aware of the value of education in their lives, they become the powerhouse of inspiring other women to seek education, and overcoming the challenges.
The greatest challenges that constitute barriers to girl’s education in Sudan include those of cultural, economic and political nature. Economic hardships can cause the manifestation of gender-preference towards education, since economically disadvantaged families are most likely to invest in the education of their male children, as opposed to the female, taking refuge in the traditional views toward girls and their need for an education. This scenario is still present in many parts of Sudan, where families prefer to send their boys to seek education, and not girls. This scenario is also a dangerous one, because it gives power to unacceptable cultural views towards girls seeking education, and creates a huge cultural barrier in the road of girl’s education.
Seeking education has become challenging, if not impossible to achieve in Sudan for several reasons. The most important of those being the political instability resulting from the many conflicts in which Sudan has become embroiled. Despite the rise in the number of private schools and colleges, there is a growing gap between these institutions and girl’s access to education in Sudan. In a country that spends 70 percent of its budget towards fueling armed conflicts, defense and intelligence, one would think that a country with such a capability would be able to set aside a budget sufficient enough to support the educational system. However, the contrary is the real situation. In marginalized areas which are torn by armed conflict, girls not only bear the costs of armed conflict on their bodies, but also they also bear it by the depravation of education, and proper access to schools. In these regions, there are no schools, and often girls have to endure the geographical challenges by moving away from their families for the sake of their education, since there are not afforded the luxury of having proper school systems, nor a proper infrastructure in their home town. These challenges arise from armed conflict, and it creates a hurdle in the path of girls to education.
There are critical solutions that can help promote girls’ access to education. One is the need to empower families to invest in the education of their female children. Families need to realize that with girls’ access to education, girls grow to become strong women capable of changing societies and nations. No girls’ education means that the society would be incomplete and would miss its other significant half. There would be no participation of women, no development, and certainly no heading forward. That is why the understanding of the need of girl’s education has to be fostered by raising awareness about the importance of education for young girls. An educated woman is an empowered one, and one who is able to give generously, and fully participate in society. Without educated girls, there would be no empowerment for women, and there would be no conscientious decion-makers, and certainly no inspiring grandmothers to echo “Agri, yumma, Agri!”