Men and Women’s Roles in Sudan

Ch 1:

7-Women rest for 40 days after childbirth

7-For celebrations, women dress in red, with unmarried women wearing the brightest shades, while men wear white

10-Zaghawa men are traders and tribal leaders

11-Men present gifts to the families of the women they want to marry

Ch 2:

13-Women had scars cut into their faces from a young age

14-It was common for men to marry multiple wives

26-Women are expected to marry a Zaghawa man, or live in shame

Ch 3:

30-Men and women live in different buildings placed close together

34-Men were allowed and expected to drink beer, where it was frowned upon for women to do so.

36-Women handled most domestic duties, and it was advantageous to have multiple wives because of this.

Ch 4:

43-Women are expected to behave, where young boys are taught to fight and defend themselves

Ch 5:

55-Halima went through the cutting: A female circumcision.

Ch 6:

74-Women and girls braid their hair in different styles according to local culture. Halima’s Grandmother refused to let her braid her hair Bob Marley style

Ch 7: No discussion of Men and Women’s roles

Ch 8:

97-Uncle Ahmed had authority over Halima as her caretaker, and defended her to the headmistress of the school

101-While Halima was at school, Kadiga was expected to marry and have children

Ch 9:

107-Girls were not allowed to associate with boys at the city school

111-Fakirs were male community leaders who had the power of God, and were believed to have the ability to create spells of good and evil

Ch 10:

117-Men shave off all their hair in preparation for marriage

122-When her father rejected the offer of those who wished for Halima to marry their son, they felt insulted

Ch 11-21: No discussion of Men’s and Women’s Roles

Ch 22:

241-The men stayed behind to fight the Janjaweed when the village was attacked, allowing the women and children to escape

245-Mo and Omer volunteered to join the SLA rebel group

Ch 23-finish: no discussion of Men’s and Women’s Roles

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Dork Shorts- Female Genital Mutilation

In class the other day, we took the time to talk about a topic that was a major focus in Halima Bashir’s memoir, “Tears of the Desert.”  It really intrigued me to look into this topic a little more; to try to discover what these African tribes think they are accomplishing by performing an act like this.  Do they truly know what the consequences are? In this brief report, I will try to answer this question, as well as try to inform you the African people’s thinking behind such a brutal rite of passage.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a name that embodies all procedures involving the alteration of a woman’s genitalia. This could be a partial removal, or a total removal, or also injury to the female genital organs for causes other than medical reasoning (WHO par 2).  It is looked at as an initiation into womanhood, and it is looked at as a very sacred practice to the African people.  FGM in most cultures acts as a cultural practice, not a religious one.  There are very few groups that perform these actions on a religious base.

There are three different types of genital mutilation, each of which is specific to a particular culture.  The first and most common is called a clitoridectomy; the partial or total removal of the woman’s clitoris. The next is excision; the partial or total removal of the labia minora along with the clitoris. The third is called infibulation, where the vaginal opening is narrowed by covering the “seal.”  Also included with FGM is any and all other procedures that are harmful to the female genitals (WHO pars 5-9).

If a woman of an African tribe chooses not to have the alterations done, she may be ostracized from her tribe for many more reasons than one. The following examples are all claims from societies prevalent in FGM of why this horrific custom is carried out:

  • The reduction of the want for sex, thus doing s outside of her marriage.
  • Enrichment of the woman’s femininity
  • The belief that if a man’s penis touched the clitoris, the male will die
  • In the same aspect, if the baby’s head touches in during childbirth it will die
  • Making the woman “clean” and allowing her to handle food and water
  • Preventing vaginal cancer, genital odors, and infertility
  • Preventing the woman from becoming a lesbian
  • Preventing nervousness
  • Creating a more beautiful face for the woman
  • Preventing the face from turning yellowish in color

These are only a few examples of reasoning for this brutal act (Heitman pars 10-23). The thing that baffles all of us; however, is that FGM has absolutely none of the health benefits described in these above examples. It interferes with the ordinary functions of girls’ and women’s bodies and the consequences for tampering with them are quite disastrous (WHO pars 6-8).

FGM is recognized as a traditional custom that is very harmful, and that it violates many sacred rights of both girls and women.  There are many global efforts to try and litigate against the practice, but because it can be looked as a religious act, this proves to be a problem.  With the ongoing information about this practice, many cultures have chosen to cease all acts of FGM, but to many others it is an act of their culture, and nothing will keep them from practicing their beliefs (In Depth pars 52-56). There are many international organizations helping the victims of FGM, and they are always accepting donations to help fight the ongoing fight for women’s rights.

Heitman, Rhonda. “Female Genital Mutilation.” Wolves Dreams. Rhonda Heitman, 2000. Web. 17 April 2011.

“In Depth- Razor’s Edge- The Controversy of Female Genital Mutilation.” IRIN Humanitarian News and Analysis. IRIN, 2011. Web. 17 April 2011.

 “WHO- Female Genital Mutilation.” World Health Organization. World Health Organization, 2011. Web.  17 April 2011.


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Code Switching

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Chapter one:

Pg 3–  Halima sings the same lullaby to her son as her parents/grandmother did to her as a child.

Pg 7- Grandma rounds up village women to help prepare a feast for the celebration of the newborn child.

Pg 10– Dad tells Halima about Grandma allowing him to marry her mother due to his father only having one wife, assuming he would be the same way.

Pg 11– Grandpa shows up, not having seen his wife (Grandma) or daughter for several years, in rage, finding out his daughter was married and just had a baby! Elders gather to try to calm him.

Chapter two:

Pg 13– Halima talks about the Zaghawa tradition of how they wear their hair – plaited tightly to a women’s head, one row/section would run parallel to her forehead, as the rest of the hair going the opposite direction, hanging freely down her neck. She also talks about Grandma’s scarring and how Zaghawa men found the scarring to be beautiful. She mentioned that her Grandmother’s took hours to be completed.

Pg 18– Being a tradition, Halima was to sleep in Grandma’s hut because elders weren’t to be left alone.

Pg 20- Describes Grandma’s hidden, long beautiful hair. Men seemed to believe it were beautiful on women.

Pg 21– Grandma takes Halima and Kadrga to the new place for firewood.

Pg 23– The girls become frightened and drop everything and run for their lives, Grandma demands them to stop, the girls realize they must do so and turn back.

Pg 24– Father complains to mother about Grandma taking the girls and demands mother to talk to Grandma.

Chapter three:

Pg 31– Grandma and Halima beat the Fur boys for beating Mo up and taking his airplane toy.

Pg 35– Halima tells the truth to Grandma and Mother about drinking and gets beaten by both of them.

Pg 36– Grandma decides time for Mo and Halima’s scarring, Halima ends up getting away.

Pg 38- Halima gets away a second time from being scarred. She complains to Mother of how horrible Grandma is.

Chapter four:

Pg 39– Grandma attempts to cure Mother by pouring gas in her ear and makes her dreadfully ill and hospitalized for a long period of time.

Pg 42– Grandma becomes fond of Grandpa and starts to act strange.

Pg 49– Grandma becomes fond of the Radio and listens to it often.

Chapter five:

Pg 55– Grandma and Mother prepare a gathering for Halima’s circumcision. Halima goes through her circumcision.

Pg 61- Grandma becomes angry about Halima attending school in the city.

Chapter six:


Chapter seven:

Pg 83– Grandma is furious about Halima coming home with her hair in the “Bob Marley” style braids.

Chapter eight:

Pg 102– Father brings home a television and Grandma disapproves greatly. She HATES it.

Chapter nine:

Pg 106– Father speaks up to Grandma and yells at her for allowing the children to be watching such horrible violence on the television.

Chapter ten:

Pg 118– Brides family fights the grooms for more money before the wedding takes place and Grandma enjoys it.

Chapter eleven:

Pg 131– Grandma finds out about her husband and children’s deaths, it changes her completely.

Chapter twelve:


Chapter thirteen:

Pg 151– Halima goes home due to school being dismissed and gets yelled at from Mother and Grandma for being too thin.

Pg 154– Grandma changes how she slaughters her goats. She says “This life doesn’t last forever”.

Chapter fourteen:


Chapter fifteen:


Chapter sixteen:


Chapter seventeen:


Chapter eighteen:


Chapter nineteen:


Chapter twenty:

Pg 231– Father tells Halima about Grandma’s passing.

Chapter twenty-one:


Chapter twenty-two:


Chapter twenty-three:


Chapter twenty-four:


Chapter twenty-five:


Chapter twenty-six:


Chapter twenty-seven:


Chapter twenty-eight:


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Marriage and Spousal Relationships in Tears

ch 1:

  • when they got married, father was in his 30’s and mother was 18
  • grandmother readily agreed because father’s father only had one wife
  • grandma ran away from her husband with children..they do not have a good relationship
  • father paid grandpa dowry at naming ceremony

Ch 2:

  • men like women plump
  • mother tells Halima the reason/story of why grandma left grandpa
  • normal for men to take more than one wife
  • grandma’s father took 9 wives
  • people got married in red clothing
  • it took 3 women 5 days to prepare grandma for her wedding
  • father complains to mother. he cannot directly complain to grandma because she is elder of family
  • the worst thing in their village is for women to not take a husband

ch 3:

  • mother and father quarrel about drinking. women object to their men drinking
  • if a husband dies, one of their brother marries widow

ch 4:

  • mother gets sick and father is “besides himself with anger”. he takes her to the hospital (pg 40)
  • mother gets pregnant
  • grandpa shows up at naming, grandma accepts it

ch 5: mother and father travel together to send Halima off to school

ch 8: mother doesn’t object and speak out about the TV like grandma

ch 9:

  • boys school is nearby and the girls get attention in passing
  • english teacher talks about white weddings
  • mother lays out rules for changes in father’s behavior
  • mother and father are worried about Omer’s temper so they go see a Fakir

ch 10: *wedding chapter*

  • groom ritually shaves head to cleanse himself from all body hair
  • bride’s dowry includes money, animals, new clothes for bride’s family
  • bride’s family “spirits her away” so they can get more money from the groom’s family (pg 118)
  • weddings are remembered better if fighting between families occurs
  • dancing and singing ritual Zaghawa song
  • party lasts all night and wedding ends with breakfast
  • Halima decides she wants to marry a man from the city that wears suits and ties
  • cousin asks Halima’s hand, but father refuses until she gets educated. the family is angry
  • father tells Halima a story of a niece that gets kidnapped by the ‘groom’ because her father refused marriage
  • mother and grandma refuse to leave the country because they think father is overracting

ch 11:

  • Mona will get married because she didn’t pass high school
  • Kadiga is married and has a son by the time she is 18. her husband does not believe that women should be educated
  • grandma is heartbroken over news of the death of her husband and sons, which shows Halima that she still loves hin

ch 12:

  • many people in the village think that nobody will want to marry Halima now that she is educated
  • Dahlia wants to marry for love

ch 13: Mona is married and has a little girl

ch 18: Abakher has two wives and wants to have children as long a possible

ch 20: mother tells father about Halima’s rape because she is too embarrassed

ch 21:

  • father asks Sharif’s family for marriage for Halima. he is educated so it will be a marriage of equals
  • Halima and Sharif’s family accept
  • wedding preparations are short. Sharif is not present because he is in hiding. when he returns a real wedding will take place
  • actual marriage is just readings from the Koran
  • groom’s mother give a cow for gift
  • Halima feels as if her marriage is a “rebirth” (pg 236)
  • Halima holds her rape a secret from Sharif
  • Halima imagines life with Sharif

ch 22: father dies and mother mourns

ch 24:

  • Abdul suggests that they lie and say they are man and wife instead of travelling strangers
  • when they arrive at Abdul’s house, wife is surprised, but hides her emotions
  • private moment to explain situation

ch 25: in England, without a certificate, Halima is not married

ch 26:

  • Halima searches for information/updates on Sharif
  • finds number and contacts him, he had been looking for her too
  • first meeting since wedding
  • Halima moves in with Sharif
  • Halima tells him her rape story, and he confesses his secrets to her
  • physical intimacy is difficult at first, but then she becomes pregnant
  • they are very happy together

ch 27:

  • Sharif supports Halima’s decision to speak out
  • Sharif is present for baby’s birth

ch 28:

  • Halima and Sharif search for a new house
  • policemen take Sharif, Halima goes into hiding
  • Sharif gets deported, then can come back. they make a life together

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Tears of the Desert: Witchcraft/Magic

Chapter 1: page 8

  • Mixing up medicine to heal cuts.
  • Hijabs: potent spell-prayers

Chapter 2: page 32

  • talks about rag dolls they would make to represent people.
  • they would play with them an go through scenarios of war, there would be a victor. (like a voodoo doll?)

Chapter 9: page 110-111

  • Omer attacks Halima, so everyone in the family thinks he has an Evil Eye in him, they go through a test by rolling an egg on the mother, crack it then repeat to see if the evil eye was looking and if there was a name to it.
  • upon confirming the Evil Eye, they made a special drink for Omer to drink, which would cast the Evil Eye out.

The rest of the book doesn’t reference any witchcraft or magic. They briefly mention different medicines they make while in the clinics or in their huts to heal wounds.

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Tears of the Desert: Political Organizations

Chapter 1: n/a

Chapter 2: n/a

Chapter 3:

p.27–The Zaghawa tribe is spread across the border of Sudan-Chad in present day Darfur. In the past, the region was the African Kingdom of Kanam.

p.27–There are three Zaghawa clans: the Towhir, the Coube, and the Bidayat.

Chapter 4: n/a

Chapter 5: n/a

Chapter 6: n/a

Chapter 7:

p.84–The British invaded Sudan hundreds of years before the story takes place and divided the tribes to make them fight: a policy known as “divide and rule.”

Chapter 8: n/a

Chapter 9:

p.107–In school, Halima learned that England was the birtplace of Democracy and learned about the British colonization of Africa.

Chapter 10:

p.123–Halima’s father volunteered to support the democratic party, and the democratic party leader, Sadiq al-Madhi, was elected.

p.123–The military soon seized power and called themselves the “National Islamic Front.” They promised to defeat the “unbelievers,” mainly, the black Africans.

Chapter 11: n/a

Chapter 12: n/a

Chapter 13: n/a

Chapter 14: n/a

Chapter 15: n/a

Chapter 16:

p.186–The only people that speak out against the “National Islamic Front” are political party members or rebel groups.

Chapter 17: n/a

Chapter 18: n/a

Chapter 19: n/a

Chapter 20: n/a

Chapter 21: n/a

Chapter 22:

p.245–Members of the Sudan Liberation Army (the SLA), one of the main rebel groups, visit Halima’s village after it is attacked.

Chapter 23:

p.249–The Arab tribes had always been poorer than the black Africans, with no settlements or crops, but once they seized control of the government, they decided to eliminate the black Africans.

Chapter 24: n/a

Chapter 25: n/a

Chapter 26: n/a

Chapter 27: n/a

Chapter 28: n/a

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