Interview with Zahara Bashir Tutu

By Nanne op 't Ende
Jageba, Sudan
April 5, 2006

Zahara is a nurse and a midwife. She came to the Mountains in the middle of the war, because her husband went to fight.

Zahara Bashir Tutu

I am Zahara Bashir Tutu, I am 35 years old. I grew up in a small village near Kadugli. It was the normal Nuba life: farming and herding. Since we were young we herded the goats, in summer and autumn I went to school in Seraf al Dai. All the girls went, together with the boys; it was a mixed school.

I finished group six of primary school but I didn't do the examination for general secondary school, because I got married and moved to Khartoum. There I lived the normal life of women in the city: staying at home, making food, taking care of the household - that was it.

My husband Araia went to the South in 1987, to join the SPLA. After he came back to the Nuba Mountains in 1989, he sent for me in Khartoum. I came to live with him in 1990. How I felt about going to a war zone? He's my husband; he had been absent for some years and now he sent for me. So I had to go. I left the children behind and went.

At first we were in Korongo with the people of Abdelaziz [Adam al Hilu]. In 1991 I went to a course in nursery and midwifery in Changaru. I graduated the same year and I've been working as a nurse and midwife since then. Araia was transferred to Lira and I joined him there; from Lira we went to Burham. After the war of Burham in 1994 we came to Jageba and we stayed here until now.

I have seen a lot of problems during the war. When the enemy would come, the women moved with all their children. They would face thirst and the old women and the small children might die. During attacks we used to move from cave to cave; when somebody died, we left the body behind. That was the general life in those years.

Pregnant women delivered in those caves, without any supplies; I just helped to get the baby out, cut the umbilical cord and that was it. I gave the most basic care and we moved to another cave again. No children died because of the lack of supplies or water though; we used a local cure to treat the infant and the mother. You take the bark of the Kharoub tree [Piliostigma Thonningii], and you chew it and dry it until it becomes like a cloth. This you put on the wound.

Every woman who is getting ready for the birth of her child is preparing this bark: it disinfects. It is especially helpful for women who have been circumcised: the wounds will heal better with the tissue of the Kharoub.

Circumcision is a big problem, it is very harmful and we want people to stop this practice. Before, I didn't even know it was bad. I performed the normal circumcision myself. Now I know how much it hurts and how dangerous it is. For the women who have already been circumcised, all we can do is deal with it, but for the young girls we have to stop it. We tell the people that it is bad and that they shouldn't do it.

The differences between the war time and now? Life was tough. I left my children at home to go to work somewhere in a clinic and I was not very comfortable knowing that the enemy might come and attack the place. Now life is good. If I go out to work I can leave my children alone at home for two or three days without any problems.

What it means to me to be Nuba... what kind of question is that? I'm a Nuba, and I'm proud of it!

Interviewed in Jageba on April 5, 2006.

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