Sudan: Zeinab Mohamed Nour

My goal is to make education a right for girls. This is a step towards the development and progress of Sudanese women.

— Zeinab Mohamed Nour

Zeinab Nour (born 1928) is a schoolteacher from El Gedaref State, Eastern Sudan. She was the first girl from the region to attend the Omdurman Institute for Teachers in 1939 and became a teacher in Eastern Sudan in 1941. For 47 years she has been supporting girls’ education and women’s empowerment. Her efforts are concentrated on combating the long-established social customs that have considered girls’ education unnecessary and confined women’s social role to marriage and procreation. Zeinab’s work is coordinated with the Ministry of Education and other educational bodies.

Zeinab has always believed in and supported girls’ right to education. She also has long-term experience in teaching, mainly in the remote suburbs of the Sudanese towns, where the education of girls was a breakthrough vision. The conditions of work in these areas were very difficult. In her words Zeinab recounts, "I was appointed as the Head of a School in El Khatmia, one of the suburbs of Kassala (a town several hours' journey from El Gadaref). On the way I had to cross a river running right through Kassala and dividing it into two. In autumn the river overflows and there was no means of transportation except being carried by people on special carriers. The school was at that time located in a wild, unpopulated area, with predatory animals. There was no electricity nor were there any other essential services in the area." Zeinab, as the Head of the School, had to live on the school’s premises. She brought along two of her cousins to stay with her, both of whom were influenced by her diligent character and later became teachers. Her dedication to girls’ education and to the enhancement of their lives has sometimes put her own life and her children’s lives at risk. In 1967 Zeinab received a promotion to join a school in a village called Kassab in El Gedaref. By that time, she was married and had four children, whom she had to take with her to work. The trip to and from work was hazardous and the only means of transportation was a market lorry. On one extremely rainy day, Zeinab and her kids boarded the lorry but just half an hour after the lorry had driven off, it broke down. It was windy and cold, and the kids were poorly; two had fever and felt sick. Luckily another truck passed by and took Zeinab and her kids to the nearest village. So, Zeinab’s dedication to girls’ education came from her commitment to bringing a real change to women’s life in the Sudan.