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Sudan: "Agri Yumma, Agri!"

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The strength of Anab Mohamed's forward thinking female relatives inspired her to make the most of her education. Now she carries that legacy forward through her own outspoken advocacy for girls in her community.

By Anab Mohomed

2013-08-05-anab.jpgAs a child, my mother would study late into the cold night, and my great-grandmother would say, "Agri yumma! Agri!" Those words, which mean, "Read, dear! Read!" in my language, settled their way into my mother's heart and have become the driving force behind all I do.

I often ask myself, how is it that a woman such as my great grandmother understood the value of education--something women in my community are nearly powerless to achieve? How could she, coming from a generation in which traditions and customs limited women, understand the critical value of education in the lives of all? Somehow, she managed to gain this knowledge--and with this knowledge she inspired generations after her. When women become aware of the value of education, they become powerhouses inspiring others to seek schooling despite overwhelming challenges.

In my homeland of Sudan, the challenges are many, and girls face many barriers to accessing education. These challenges stem from economic hardships, cultural beliefs, and political unrest.

Sudan has been plagued by conflict for as long as I can remember. In war-torn areas, girls not only bear the costs of armed conflict on their bodies, but they also bear it on their minds. These regions lack proper infrastructure and there are no schools. Getting an education is an uphill battle, and often girls must move away from their families to get an education. We are a country that spends 70% of its budget on fueling armed conflicts, defense, and intelligence. One would think that with such capability, we would be able to set aside a budget sufficient enough to support educational systems, but this is not the case--and it is a huge barrier for girls.

Poverty and financial hardship are other barriers. Economically disadvantaged families are more likely to invest in the education of their male children. Families prefer to send their boys to school, believing that an educated daughter will not produce the same return as an educated son. This dangerous scenario plays out all across Sudan, and it is hindering our girls from becoming the women they are meant to be.

But 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 education, girls grow to be strong women capable of changing societies and nations. We must raise awareness about the importance of educating girls--for an educated woman is an empowered one, one who gives generously, one who can fully participate in the development of our nation.

We must help create a new generation of women who will inspire the next. We must encourage girls to tell their future grandchildren, "Agri yumma! Agri!"