Nafisa Kamil (NK) 1916 –16 November 2005 A Pioneer Sudanese Woman
When we talk about the Sudanese women especially the Pioneer Women, we should talk about Nafisa Kamil, a pioneer leader, she was absolutely an example of the Sudanese women who struggled to open the path for the coming generations.
She was the first pioneer woman in the field of social voluntary work and welfare, and journalism.
When she started the voluntary social work, Sudanese women were ignorant and left behind socially, financially, and politically. They were unaware of their own rights and duties, and they were subordinated and dominated by men.
Such miserable and painful situation of Sudanese women motivated and encouraged Nafisa Kamil to think seriously how to elevate Sudanese woman lifestyle.
She was an empowered woman and has strong will that had never been broken; also, she had a very sharp and smart mind.
She was ahead of her society at the early thirties. She started what is known as the civil society, income generating activities, orphanages and parentless home, substitute mother and social fostering programs. Moreover, she implemented other activities that support women and children in the rural areas.
Nafisa Kamil initiated worker women support services through the working women House, which used to provide integrated services to the working women by providing nursery, kindergarten and ready meal provided at a low cost.
Below are some captions of her CV:
Family and Educational Background:
Nafisa Kamil was born in Sinner town in Sudan – in 1916.
Her father is Mohammed Kamil Mahmud
He was the head of accounting department in the Ministry of Finance, and due to his nature of work he used to move to different areas in Sudan (Al Dewaim, Marawi, Zalingei, El Obeid, Atbara and Malakal). He died in 1963.
- N. K’s mother is Hamida Mohammed Aldemeyati.
- Nafisa Kamil mother roots are Egyptian and Turkish. However, she was born, brought up and lived in Sudan. She was an excellent housewife, exceedingly kind, pleasant, well organized, and neat lady. She died in Khartoum in 1972.
N. K. has three sisters Nabiha, Ihssan and Bahia, and four brothers: Abdelhaleem, Alsadig, Abdul-Aziz and Saad. Only Bahiya is alive. Bahia is 70 years old.
- NK traveled with her family to most provinces of the Sudan, due to the nature of her father work.
- She received her basic education in Missionary School in Port Sudan, where she used to live with her grandparents, because her father had to move to Zalingei, where no grills’ school over there. When she went to School in Port Sudan her teacher was admiring her intelligence and personality. She used to encourage her to study and write. When Nafisa felt tired, she used to put the pencil on the desk, but her teacher did not allow her and keep encouraging her to write more and more, and she used to touch Nafisa’ s head and say to her: “This mind and this hand will have bright and shining future”.
- NK received religious and Arabic lessons in Maraoe town before she entered school. Her teacher was Sheikh Algezouli; who also predicted a bright future for her, as he used to say: “You are going to have a status and bright future.
- When her family moved to Elobeid town in Western Sudan, she was 13 years old, and as there was no girls’ school over there, she had to stay at home, at this period she engaged herself with handicrafts, housework and sewing. She turned to be a creative and skillful lady.
- One day a fire was set on their house in Elobeid, it happened that Mr. Hassan Ali Karrar was among those who hurried to put down the fire, and that was the first time he saw Miss. Nafisa Kamil. She was standing near the wall observing the situation, he admired her very much. Shortly after that incident, he got engaged to her and they got married in 1930.
- Mr Hassam Ali Karrar was graduated in Gordon Memorial College in 1929 and worked as a Headmaster in Elobied Intermediate School. He was promoted in 1960 to become the Deputy of the Ministry of Education. Besides that, he studied Law and later after he retired in 1966, he worked as a civil judge in the Ministry of Justices (he had an interesting story related to this post).
- Mr. Hassan was a real supporter to Nafisa Kamil, as he used to encourage her to promote her educational level. He was the Headmaster of the Boys’ Elementary School, so he gave her a chance to join the elementary school to attend classes with the boys.
Also, he encouraged her to improve her reading skills He used to bring for her different kinds of newspapers, stories, magazines and journals among which was Al Resala Magazine. Nafisa Kamil was so eager to read although she had a lot of social obligations in addition to her responsibilities towards her family. However, she succeeded to read those publications at night.
She continued to improve her educational level through reading.
One day she came through a topic written by Dr Taha Hussein in Al Resala Magazine, in which he expressed his readiness to help anyone wants to improve his/ her skills in Arabic literature and.
So, she took that opportunity and wrote a letter to Dr. Taha Hussein so as to help her to improve her educational level. When she did not get any response from Dr Taha Hussein within a month, she lost hope and thought that he might receive her letter and didn’t pay any attention to it and threw it in the rubbish bin.
Three months later, her husband came from work and asked her “did you write a letter to Dr Taha Hussein? She answered: yes, I did. she replied: “You are a daring woman, Dr Taha Hussein has replied to you, and here is his letter”. She was so happy that at last Dr. Taha had responded to her letter. In his letter Dr Taha Hussein explained to her that he is going to send a list of books and publications that she should read and after she finished reading, she should inform him so as to send to her another list that contains higher level of books and publications, and so on. Also, he mentioned that she should not expect to receive any letter from him with the books and publications lists. All he could do he will continue sending to her the lists until she reached the highest level. So, she continued to receive those lists. One day Dr Taha Hussein wrote to her that she reached a high level that would enable her to depend on herself, and she can select any publications of interest to her.
- NK was a mother for 12 daughters and three sons. Four of her daughters were graduated from Teachers Colleges in Omdurman and Elobied, and worked in the field of education (Tahra, Widad, Afifia, and Samira); four of her daughters were graduated from university (Afifia), she continued her education after she retired from Ministry of Education. The others are (Laila ( Laila got married very young, but continued her education when her eldest daughter started University, and went with her to the same university), Sayda (Graduated from the Sorbonne in Paris) and Alia ( Graduated from Ahfad University for Women and did her Master in the University of Bristol in the UK, and finally got her PHD from the University of Alexandria in Egypt), Laila and Alia are working at Ahfad university for Women as lecturers. One of her daughters (Suaad), had completed the intermediate school. Her daughter (Aziza) joined the Teacher’s College after she finished the high school. The other one who completed high school is (Omaima) complete high school level. The others (Amina, and Nadia) completed the basic school as there were no intermediate schools for girls at that time and they got married at young age (13-14 years). According to Sudanese Traditions early marriage was common at that time; in fact, it was a must. However, NK had struggled to let the rest of her daughters to continue their education and to get married at age 18 or more.
Her eldest son Abdelmoneim joined the Ministry of Defense and became an officer in Sudanese Army. He was executed 1990, by Al Basheer regime. Abdelazim, studied mechanical engineering in West Berlin – Germany, but unfortunately, he he had a traffic accident and the doctor advised him to change the of his career, as he will not be able to work as a mechanical engineer due to a serious damage in his legs, so he left West Berlin for London, where he established his own business, and by time his legs were recovered. Abdelmageed is the youngest son, and he was her favorite, had finished his high school, and established his own business in Khartoum.
- In the early thirties NK and her family used to live in her father in-law house. He was an extremely strict and traditional man. As he was against girls’ education, he forbids his own daughter and granddaughters to go to school. In the morning he used to sit in front of the main gate of the house so that nobody can go out without his permission, especially girls.
- It is worth mentioning, that Nafisa Kamil felt sorry for her daughters (Amina, Suaad and Aziza), because they were forbidden to go to school. Given that she was educated herself, she could not accept the idea that her own daughters be deprived from education. So, she started to think how she could find a way to educate them. She found a brilliant solution without affecting the relationship with her father in-law. She let the maid who used to work with her to stay outside near the wall at the back of the house, and then she held her daughters on her shoulders so that the maid could take them over the wall one after the other to take them to school in the morning. School time finished at 12 o’clock that was before their grandfather came back from work. So, they managed to go to school every day until they completed the basic school (which was the only school for girls at that time), without the knowledge of their grandfather. So Nafisa Kamil managed to educate her eldest daughters without causing any problem in the family especially with her father in-law.
- She tends to raise her daughters to become change agents in the society, and to fight against British colonist. Her daughter Nadia Hassan Ali Karrar was the youngest pupil who initiated and guided a demonstration against the British educational system in El Obeid, as there was only one intermediate school for girls, which accepts small number of pupils. The rest of the pupils should stay at home because there were not enough places for them to continue their education.
- NK predicted the colors of Sudan flag before Sudan became independent, she sewed a flag consist of three colors (black, yellow and green), and wrote a poem about it. She wrote:
I dreamt in my sleep that I saw the flag of the Sudan
It has three colors:
The black color is a symbol of the Sudan
The green color is a symbol of green valleys and the rivers
The yellow color is a symbol of Kordofan Desert.
Move forward Kordofan young women move forward.
She encouraged her daughter Samira Hassan Ali Karrar to participate in the school annual celebration and gave her the flag and trained her to say the poem. Samira presented the poem while she was holding the flag, all audience were astonished and clapped for her, and requesting the organizers of the celebration to repeat it many times. On independency day the Sudanese flag which was raised up the Palace of Khartoum consisted of three colors, Blue, Yellow and Green, so NK has used the Black color instead of the Blue color. So she was not far from it.
- She experienced a strong shock, when her eldest Son Abdelmoneim, was executed by Omer Al Basheer regime in April 1990, that was in the month of Ramadan in which God forbid Killing.
Abdelmoneim was born after ten daughters, and she was so anguished to have a baby boy. Infact, she got a baby boy before Abdelmoneim but he died in his seventh day, so she and her husband felt so sad, and her husband used to visit his grave every day for a quite long time.
The reason of execution is that Abdelmoneim and other Military brave officers who were trying to get rid of Al Basher regime, because they came to know that it it is backed by the Muslim Brother Party, and if they continued to rule Sudan, they will lead Sudan to a real disaster, and that what is happening in Sudan now.
Voluntary Social Work and Journalism:
- She started the voluntary social work in 1943, when she established the first Voluntary association in Kordofan in western Sudan (Sudanese Women Voluntary Association). The main objectives of the association were to help Sudanese women and children. That Association was considered as starting point for the Sudanese women movement in Kordofan. She was the head of that association till 1956.
- When her husband moved to Al Fashir in Darfur, She established Women Guidance Association in the early fifties, in order to meet some of the needs of Sudanese women over there.
- She was the First Sudanese Female Journalist. She used to write about social, and awareness issues in Kordofan News Paper under a fake name (N. Kamil), and later she became responsible of preparing Women page in the same Newspaper, which was considered to be the first page addressing to Women in the Sudanese Newspapers.
After she moved to Khartoum, she continued to write in other Newspapers such as (Al Ayam, Al Sahafa, New Sudan, Al Raiy Alaam).
- She was the editor of the New Sudanese Woman Newspaper.
- She was responsible of the woman page in Al Neel Newspaper which belonged to Al Umma Political Party up to 1969. (When all activities of the political parties were forbidden by President Numeri’s regime).
- After October revolution in Khartoum -1964-, the political parties resume their activities and started to establish women political body, so Nafisa Kamil was the one who established Al Umma Women Political Body, but she passed on its leadership to one of Al Mahdi’s family.
- Member of Sudanese Uprising Women Association, 1943.
- Founder and head of Mothers and Child Protection Association 1963,
- Member of Sudanese Journalist league 1964.
- Member of Sudanese Red Crescent Association, 1962. It worth mentioning that during October revolution in Khartoum 1964, Nafisa Kamil was volunteered to provide first aid for wounded people, and she was responsible of the children ward in Khartoum Hospital.
- Member of illegitimate children adoption committee, which belong to the Ministry of Social Welfare, 1966.
- An Active member in Palestine Support Committee 1967.
- Member of South Sudan Support Committee of 1968.
- Member in the National Aid Support committee 1968
- Member of Students’ support Committee 1968
- Member of the National committee, 1969
- Member in Naserian Women League.
- Member in Babiker Badri Scientific Association for Women studies 1979.
- Initiator of the substitute mother system, as she established the Child Protection Home through the activities of Women and Child protection Association.
- Supported Al Maygoma Orphans’ Home through the activities of Women and Child Protection Association, which adopted parentless children.
- Initiator of Village Relief Program, through the activities of Mothers and Child Protection Association.
- In 1971, selected by President Numeri, to be the First President of the Sudanese Women Union Preparatory Committee.
- The first Lady in Sudan to go to Southern Sudan during the rebel movement and upon the Ananya Army war, to negotiate with the leader of the rebels Col. Joseph Lago, in order to meet President Numeri Peace Negotiator – Envoy in Addis Ababa, and she managed to accomplish this mission successfully and later Peace came back to the Sudan and lasted for 10 years.
- She continued working until 1990. After the execution of her son, she decided to stay at home, but she continued to help poor people. She used to sew clothes and distributed them to poor children during Eid Elfiter time (Muslim Feast). Also, she started to document for herself and Sudanese women.
- After the execution of eldest her son, her daughters took the initiative and contacted all the families of the 28 officers who were executed with Abdelmoneim (28 eight families), and were managed to form a group named (Families of the 28th of Ramadan Martyrs Group). The group struggled against Al Basheer regime, and still struggling. The group had so many brave acts against the existing regime and were subjected to torcher and imprisonment . All these has been documented by Amnesty International in London.
- She is the First Sudanese Woman to write her Biography entitled: The Sudanese Women between the Past and the Present. It was published in 1997.
- She wrote three books, one entitled “The Sequential Governments of Sudan”, and the other one entitled “The Housewife and The Happy Family”, and the last one entitled “The Relationship between the Mother in Law and Daughter in Law”. Unfortunately, she died before those books were published.
- She was awarded many medals from the different Governments in Sudan.
- She was awarded a medal by King Alhassan the second of Morocco, for participating in the Green Walk in Rabat.
- She was exalted by King Hussein of Jordon.
- She was awarded a medal by the President of Tunisia Al Habeed Bu Rughaba.
- She participated in the funeral of President Jamal Abdunnasir the former President of Egypt.
- She was awarded an Honorary Bachelor Degree in Education and Kindergarten by Ahfad University for Women, in April 1993.
- Participated in several local and international conferences and workshops.
- Received several trainings in women issues.
- Received training in the First Aid, conducted by the red crescent in Sudan.
- She was recognized by many civil society associations during her life and even after her death. As she was awarded many certificates due to her contributions in social work
- She has managed to convince President Numeri to suspend a law that was made to force the wife back to her husband home, if she had a genuine dispute with her husband and took refuge in her parents home. This law is still suspended till today. .
- Died in 16th of November 2005, in Khartoum.
- Ahfad University for Women conducted a huge memorial celebration. They formed a national committee to organize the activities of the event which was directed by Shukrallah Khalafallah on Sudan TV.
Considerable number of Sudanese People with their different social status and background attended the event.
- Many poems and songs were written on Nafisa Kamil, such as, Sit Nafisa Kamil, Ya Helilk Ya Nafisa Kamil (Nafisa Kamil we missed you).
- Sudan TV had documented part of her life through a program titled Asmaa Fi Hayatna (Names in our life), presented by Omer Al Gozzali.
- Ashurouq Channel, also documented for her, and produced short film about her life and social work. The film was presented in the celebration of the International Women’s Day in Sudan through program titled Sherra Al Amel, presented by Ranya Haroon).
- The Blue Nile channel presented special program about her, in the second memorial.
- There is special section contains her personal belongings and photos, in the Women Museum at Ahfad University for Women.
- Till last moment in her life, she was alert, full of love, optimism and giving donation. Her face was shiny reflected inner pure self.
What did some of Sudanese key persons say about her?
- Dr Amna Al Sadig Badri the vice president of Ahfad University for women said, “Nafisa Kamil is a name that holds its meaning, as Nafisa means precious, and she is really precious, and Kamil means whole(complete), and she is a whole (complete). I always love to talk about her, as she is a unique woman. She fought for Sudanese Women Rights, keeping her Islamic values and good traditions. Although she received little education, she managed to apply it in its right way. By her sharp views and tendency to help poor people in the society, she did her voluntary social work in her best way. In fact, it did not keep her from her responsibilities towards her family and her role as a housewife.
The Sudanese Journalist Abu Al Azayem Called her “Umana Hawa” our Mother Eve. She was a good wife, and kind mother. Also, she was an elegant lady who took good care of her appearance, as she took good care about her self-esteem and image. Nafisa Kamil was an excellent housewife, and she was so good in making all kinds of food, her house was a paradise on the earth, if you wish, you could spend the rest of your life in it. By nature, she was a counselor and social worker; I had gained a lot from her effective advice. She used to have a unique way of communication skills. Nafisa Kamil was a pretty lady.
Al Fateh Al Nour, a famous Sudanese journalist who was the owner of Kordofan Newspaper, and a son in-law. He said: “As if Nafisa Kamil was created with a thread which differs from the other human beings’ ones”.
- Late Professor Yousif Badri, the establisher and the ex-president of Ahfad University for Women. He said: “Nafisa Kamil is the first Sudanese Pioneer woman who paved the path for Sudanese women to step to the communication yard outside the house. She managed to overcome all difficulties and obstacles that she met in building a freedom path for Sudanese Women. She had a role and message in which she believed, therefore, she struggled and sailed on her ship on huge waves, guiding the ship until it arrived safely to the quay where the star of the Sudanese Women Union had appeared in 1952.
- Ismet Abdel Gawad, a famous Egyptian journalist said, “Nafisa Kamil was a full of energy, as she led a sparkling social movement, and she had exerted a huge journalism effort when the work of journalism at that time was exclusive for men.
- Sir Gawain Bell ( a former civil servant in the Sudan during the British Colonization period), has written in his book Shadows on The Sand, saying She was jovial and clever wife and was one of few Sudanese Ladies who would dine in a mixed company.