Theresa Kachindamoto: Ending Child Marriage in Malawi

By Michelle Nelson von Euw

Source : Nafarroako Gobernua

Theresa Kachindamoto is the paramount chief, or Inkosi, of the Dezda District in the central region of Malawi, the 6th poorest country in the world. In this position, she has authority over 900,000 people and works as one of 300 tribal leaders of the country. Kachindamoto came to power after a 27-year career as a secretary in another southern district where she had to face what she believes to be one of the most pressing issues of her time – child marriage. A survey conducted by the United Nations in 2012 found that more than 50% of girls in Malawi were married before the age of 18 and ranked Malawi as having one of the highest child marriage rates in the world.

Appalled by the statistics, and shocked by the existence of 12-year-old wives and mothers, Kachindamoto decided that she must do everything in her power to end the marginalizing practice of child marriage. Although Malawi passed a law in 2015 that prohibits marriage before the age of 18, it proved to be generally ineffective as the traditional practices allow children to marry at any age with parental consent, and many poor families play an active role in encouraging child marriage as a means to ensure that young girls are provided for. Although Malawi is a country with a functioning democratic government, traditional practices still heavily influence the rule of law.

Child marriage was only part of the problem as many regions in Malawi still support the use of sexual initiation camps, or kukasa fumbi. Girls from rural towns were sent to these “cleansing camps” upon having their first period to learn how to pleasure men and fulfill their “duties” as women. Many only graduated by having sex with their teachers to show that they were prepared to take on the role of wife. This customary practice unfortunately contributed to an increase in HIV and unwanted pregnancies throughout the region; Malawi has an HIV infection rate of 10%.

Source : Prachatai

Alongside 50 other sub chiefs, Theresa Kachindamoto drafted and signed an agreement to end child marriage and sexual initiation camps.. As expected, this attempt to end long-standing cultural practices was not welcomed . Vigorous backlash throughout the regions ensued, but Kachindamoto stood firm. Her commitment to protecting the lives and futures of the innocent never wavered. Kachindamoto immediately fired the four male sub chiefs who opposed the end of the camps and child marriage. Eventually, however, these four sub chiefs enforced the new laws in their districts and were welcomed back after Kachindamoto was able to verify their commitment to ending these practices.

In her time as senior chief in the Dezda District, Malawi’s government has increased the legal age of marriage consent from 15 to 18 years old. To date, Theresa Kachindamoto has annulled more than 1000 child marriages.

References:

Margaritoff, Marco. “How One Female Chief Saved 850 Kids From Forced Child Marriage.” All That’s Interesting, All That’s Interesting, 8 Mar. 2019, allthatsinteresting.com/theresa-kachindamoto.

McNeish, Hannah. “Malawi’s Fearsome Chief, Terminator of Child Marriages.” Malawi | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 16 May 2016, www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/03/malawi-fearsome-chief-terminator-child-marriages-160316081809603.html.

Soldati, Camilla. “Theresa Kachindamoto, the Woman Who Saves Girls from Child Marriage in Malawi.” LifeGate, 1 Feb. 2019, www.lifegate.com/people/news/theresa-kachindamoto-child-marriage-malawi.


Struggling Against Shame and Pain: Obstetric Fistula in Niger

By Elsa Sichrovsky

Source : EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid

Giving birth to a baby is physically painful and psychologically stressful for any woman, but for women in Niger, childbirth can debilitating as it frequently results in a condition that plagues them with chronic incontinence for the rest of their lives: obstetric fistula. Prolonged labor without medical interventions such as cesarean section and forceps delivery can create a hole in the birth canal. Blood, urine, andr feces constantly leak through this hole, causing physical pain and psychological shame, and even complete ostracization for women who live in a society that sees incontinence as the result of poor personal hygiene.

What’s worse, most of the births that resulted in obstetric fistula were stillbirths. Mothers have to deal with the emotional pain of losing their child after a tortuous childbirth process while coping with the incredible discomfort and increased risk of infection that results from obstetric fistula. At this vulnerable point in their lives, their husbands may leave them due to disappointment with the stillbirth or disgust over their incontinence[1]. Obstetric fistula sufferers have to endure the daily struggle of mastering specific ways of sitting and dressing themselves to hide their condition from friends, family and even their spouses. For many women, the strain of hiding a shameful secret and the fear of humiliating exposure leads to isolation and loss of social relationships.

In desperation, women have to travel long distances to seek careas treatment centers are few and far . After waiting for months for a slot in the surgery schedule, they may face the disappointment of unsuccessful surgery. When the surgery fails to restore continence, women must find ways to pass as continent for fear of frustrating eager friends and family. The process of waiting in treatment centers and undergoing multiple surgeries to regain continence can take up to a decade. As women end up spending years of their lives seeking treatment without success, fighting despair becomes a struggle[2].

The upside is that obstetric fistula is preventable as it is a disease of poverty, which is nonexistent in first world countries[3]. Besides making medical resources more easily accessible for rural women, combating child marriage is also key to reducing the incidence of obstetric fistula. Operation Fistula describes the profile of the average woman with fistula: her first pregnancy within three years of her first menstruation and married below the age of eighteen to a husband at least five years older than her[4]. Dr. Abdoulaye Idrissa, director of Niger’s National Fistula Center, pointed out, “The essential factors remain poverty, illiteracy, access to health care services…there are social factors also, like early marriage.”[5] He frequently sees patients as young as 12 or 13 in his treatment center.

However complex these social issues are, Wells Bring Hope believes that a brighter future can be built for Niger’s women. Drilling a well is the first step because when girls don’t have to join their mothers in walking for water, they stay in school. When girls have the chance to get an education, they delay marriage and childbearing, thereby reducing their chance of developing a fistula. When a well is drilled, women receive microfinance training. As the women gain financial independence and grow in confidence, they are able to provide for their families and afford a better standard of living. Their daughters can see that there is an alternative to the life they used to know. With consistent efforts to nurture and educate women, the vicious cycle of poverty and child marriage can be brought to an end. Anyone can be a part of this exciting project by volunteering or donating to Wells Bring Hope!


[1] https://www.unfpa.org/news/delivering-hope-women-fistula-niger#

[2] https://www.sapiens.org/culture/obstetric-fistula-in-niger/

[3]https://www.newsdeeply.com/womenandgirls/articles/2016/05/20/fistula-povertys-entirely-preventable-plight

[4]https://www.newsdeeply.com/womenandgirls/articles/2016/05/20/fistula-povertys-entirely-preventable-plight

[5] https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/07/1014172


The Market of Dandaji

By Caroline Moss

Atelier Masomi, an architectural studio, is helping to grow the economy in the village of Dandaji in Niger. Led by lead architect Mariam Kamara, who was raised in Niger, the studio designs its spaces to socially empower individuals and provide a better quality of life. Kamara recognized that markets previously were  temporary and had no permanent space. This constant movement of the markets made it difficult  for entrepreneurs to both sell and procure goods. Kamara knew that creating a permanent market would provide the community with a consistent and reliable place to gather for commerce, something that would be sure to help the economy grow.

The design of the structure is very simple. It is designed around an ancestral tree, where the weekly transient markets used to  take place. Now, the space has become  a public gathering place with seating arrangement . There are 52 enclosed market stalls  located close to the public space. The stalls were designed to be practical and durable enough to last  for decades. The bricks used to build these stalls  are made from compressed earth to help cool the space allowing the vendors to work through the day despite temperatures that exceed 100°F.

Recycled metal was used to create shade, making up for the area’s lack of trees. The metal shades are painted yellow, blue, and green, creating a whimsical feeling and drawing villagers into the marketplace.

Source : Carsten ten Brink

By building the regional market, Alelier Masomi provided new opportunities for the Dandaji villagers. Kamara hired local villagers as masons to work on the project, which both provided work for the villagers and allowing Masomi to transfer his knowledge and skills to the local community. The project has instilled pride in local residents and added to the village’s sense of community.

When a well is drilled in a village, there is a similar increase in community spirit and pride. In villages where Wells Bring Hope works, that community building begins even before the well is drilled, when a committee is formed to manage the well, handle malfunctions, and obtain new parts. The villagers also establish a maintenance fund, to which everyone in the village contributes, creating a feeling of “ownership.” Reliable access to safe water, allows individuals to have more free time to take care of their families and to pursue income-generating work. The market at Dandaji is a great example of how individuals can use time that is freed up when they do not have to walk for water to provide for their families, but as always, the first step is having access to clean water.

“Atelier Masomi.” Atelier Masomi, www.ateliermasomi.com/.

Guernieri, Marianna. “Mariam Kamara: We Are Not Using the Knowledge We Have That Is Centuries Old.” DOMUS, 10 June 2019, www.domusweb.it/en/architecture/2019/06/10/mariam-kamara-we-are-not-using-the-knowledge-we-have-that-is-centuries-old.html.

“How We Work.” Wells Bring Hope, www.wellsbringhope.org/how-we-work/.

Ladanyi, Olivia. “Colourful Metal Canopies Shade a Regional Market in Rural Niger by Atelier Masomi.” Dezeen, Dezeen, 25 Nov. 2019, www.dezeen.com/2019/08/23/dandaji-market-niger-atelier-masomi-architecture-infrastructure/.

Niger : Work in Progress

By Talei Caucau

Niger is the poorest country in the world. The country has a high fertility rate and low literacy rate. Before I conducted my own research for this article, everything I knew about Niger was negative. Magazines like National Geographic provided insight into the chaos that surrounds Niger. That is literally the title of a National Geographic article released in July 2019, “Surrounded by chaos, Niger is a nation on the edge.”

Niger is a country that seldom makes news for positive reasons. If you google “Niger” you will find quite a few articles about violence and political instability. Positive news can be hard to find; however, I am an optimist. Although, Niger continues to endure immense hardships, there is progress worth celebrating.

Niger is ranked at the bottom in the UN’s Education Index. Less than 15% of women in Niger can read and write. Less than 50% of school-age children attend school. There are poor retention rates for the remainder of children who attend school. Save the Children has sponsored early childhood education to help increase literacy levels by increasing access and equality in education. In Niger, Save the Children has also provided an estimated 825,268 children with essential nourishment through health and nutrition programs that support vulnerable children.

Source : Photo Unit

In Niger, diarrheal disease resulting from unsafe water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene is one of the leading causes of death for children under the age of five. UNICEF has partnered with Niger’s government and other non-profits to implement sanitation programs, called Total Sanitation, in 10 villages. The program is in its early stages and will be implemented in more villages in the future. The majority of villagers in rural Niger do not have knowledge of hygienic practices. UNICEF trained a certain number of villagers to understand and teach the program. The sanitation programs are community-led and each villager participates in the learning process.

UNICEF provides funding for programs that teach good hygiene practices in communities. UNICEF also conducted research to help implement a pilot program in 10 schools that will help young girls learn about menstruation and hygiene. This initiative will include helping the government and its ministers make this program a national cause. This is a small step in the right direction for a nation that has a history of severe inequality among men and women.

Domestic violence is a widespread issue in Niger. The United Nations and the European Union have come together to work toward the goal of eliminating all forms of violence against women by 2030. The United Nations is also working with the Ministry for the Promotion of Women and Protection of Children to strengthen laws that address violence against women, encourage and strengthen women’s rights movements, and educate communities on the harmfulness of female genital mutilation. This massive initiative will begin at the government level as ministers will learn about every step of the initiative before it is implemented in communities.

CURE International opened the first children’s hospital to offer cutting edge specialty surgery. CURE’s hospital has the capacity to perform more than 2,000 complex orthopaedic surgeries annually. The hospital offers hope for children with disabilities such as clubfoot. It also offers more opportunities for employment for the people of Niger.

Niger suffers from some of the highest rates of malnutrition and mortality in the world. USAID has implemented an initiative known as RISE (Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced). RISE’s objective is to build the local health systems so they can handle the massive rate of malnutrition. USAID works with the Nigerien government to ensure their programs and initiatives are implemented nationwide. RISE helps communities learn about nutrition.

Source : SIM USA

Niger is mostly desert, so the climate is mostly hot and dry, with periods of much-needed rain. That rain has become less and less reliable in recent years as Niger has experienced drought after drought. Improved conservation and alternative agricultural techniques employed by farmers and aid groups have been able to mitigate this crisis, helping to plant and maintain millions of trees in the last decade. The government is also working with NGOs to decrease desertification. [KC1] 

A remote irrigation system was designed by a local farmer, Abdou Maman Kané, through his business Tech-Innov. The remote irrigation system is controlled by cell phones and uses water more productively. An estimated 200 farms utilise the system, which uses solar power to fuel pumps. Prior to the remote irrigation system, an estimated 50% to 60% of water is lost because of leaks in buckets and pipes. The system has allowed farmers to irrigate larger areas of land.

The Integrated Production and Pest Management program, a product of the Food and Agricultural organisation of the UN, works to raise awareness about the dangers of pesticides, empower communities, market nutritious food across Africa. In Niger, the program empowers communities by collaborating with clubs to encourage open discussions and helping communities have meaningful social interactions. The program also helps farmers irrigate more land, trains farmers to improve practices and increase their yield, and pilot a system to help seed marketing.

Access to clean water is limited in much of rural Niger. As population growth continues and communities expand, the need for clean water increases. One in seven children dies before the age of five due to a lack of safe water. Fortunately, Niger has a wealth of clean water available a couple hundred feet below ground. Wells Bring Hope, in partnership with World Vision, is able to tap these aquifers, providing villagers with an endless supply of clean water. Wells Bring Hope also works with villages for more than 15 years after a well is drilled, teaching villagers how to maintain it, and empowering them to take ownership of it.

Niger is improving in small ways and will continue to make progress. When we fund Wells Bring Hope and other aid programs in Niger, we provide communities with hope for their futures. With our financial assistance, more initiatives can be implemented to educate men and women on sanitation, nutrition, women’s rights, and conservation. The future of Niger is more hopeful than it was a decade ago because of the determined efforts of its people, the support of aid organizations that have dedicated their time to developing innovative solutions to complex problems, and the generosity of compassionate people around the world who have chosen to support that important work.

References:

https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/global-health-bright-spots-2019

https://www.unicef.org/wash/schools/files/WinS4Girls_-_Voices_from_the_field./

http://www.fao.org/gender/news/detail/en/c/415999/

https://www.savethechildren.org/us/what-we-do/where-we-work/africa/niger

https://www.unicef.org/niger/water-sanitation-and-hygiene

https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/global-health-bright-spots-2019

https://www.who.int/hac/crises/ner/background/profile/en/

https://www.usaid.gov/niger/our-work/global-health

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13943662

https://www.britannica.com/place/Niger

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2017/may/15/niger-girls-education-challenge-un

https://www.unicef.org/wash/niger_57677.html

http://www.fao.org/agriculture/ippm/projects/regional/gcp-raf-453-spa/en/

http://www.fao.org/in-action/aicca/country-activities/niger/irrigation-technologies/en/

https://observers.france24.com/en/20151029-niger-remote-irrigation-system-saving-water-farmers-energy-environment-crops-cell-p

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/39725677/ns/business-press_releases/t/one-worlds-poorest-countries-children-orthopedic-conditions-now-have-hope/


Malama Ouani: Empowering with Education

By Elsa Sichrovsky

In my comfortable first-world life, information is just a swipe away. Whenever I want to know something, I just pull out my smartphone and start typing a question into Google. Immediately, a plethora of helpful information fills the screen. If I need counseling, support, or treatment, the internet makes endless resources available to me.

But for women in Niger, most of whom have never had the opportunity to receive an education, the sole sources of information are their fathers, husbands, and male religious leaders. Although Niger’s male literacy rate of 27.3% is higher than the female literacy rate of 11%[1], it still means that the information about women’s issues that Nigerien men have available to  pass on to women is very limited. In a country where radio and television are luxuries inaccessible to rural communities, many families are unaware of medical and social services such as contraception and family planning that can improve the quality of life for women and children.

Source : TREEAID

In 2018, UNPFA (United Nations Population Fund) launched a project that partnered with more than 50 female Muslim clerics like Malama Ouani to provide weekly classes about reproductive health, family planning, and women’s rights from an Islamic perspective. In a country that is more than 99% Muslim, Malama Ouani has a powerful message to deliver: she believes that family planning and the right of women to be safe and educated do not conflict with Islamic beliefs.

In a blog article, Malama Ouani points out the common misconception that society’s oppression of women is endorsed by Islam: “I know this is not the will of god or our government. It merely reflects a failure so old that it seems as if it has always been the case.”[2] In her women’s study groups, called madrassas, Malama Ouani teaches women that caring for their personal health and well-being is a religious obligation: “How do you want to be consistent in your religious practice and your adorations if you are sick all the time?”[3]

Source : UN Women

One essential way to improve women’s health is to practice family planning. Niger has one of the highest birth rates in the world[4], and many women have been taught that Islam does not approve of spacing births. However, family planning allows the mother’s body to recover after giving birth, which helps her to be a stronger, healthier mother for the children she already has. Malama Ouani tells women they can chose a different path from what they have been raised with: “I tell the women, I am a Muslim cleric, and I have three children – each born roughly three years after the next (currently ages 5, 8, and 12). I did not have 10 children like my mother because I used family planning methods.”[5]

With a vision for the future, Malama Quani urges women to send their girls to school so they can become medical professionals who can make medical examinations more comfortable and easily accessible for Nigerien women. She refutes the notion that knowledge can only be held in the hands of men: “The quest for knowledge is an obligation for every Muslim.”[6]

Women have responded enthusiastically to Malama Quani’s instruction. She describes how women gradually process the concepts that she teaches : “ A woman one week will ask about family planning. And then next week, she might be bold enough to ask me what I use. And then next week, she might ask some questions about how it works. Some women then might take this information back to their husbands to talk about what their family might look like if they planned their pregnancies.”[7] Other women announce plans to visit their local health centers or ask Malama Quani how they can enroll their daughters in school.

Source : Bread for the World

Wells Bring Hope shares Malama Quani’s vision for educating women and girls about their rights so they may enjoy a higher quality of life. With microfinance classes and hygiene education, women have a chance to escape the cycle of poverty and build a brighter future for their daughters. Most essentially, having an accessible well in their village means that girls who no longer have to walk for water can remain in school and get an education, which will leave them empowered to make thoughtful decisions about their health and futures. Best of all, anyone can be a part of it by donating or volunteering for Wells Bring Hope!


[1] https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ng.html

[2] https://www.one.org/africa/blog/they-cant-google-so-they-ask-me-about-their-rights/

[3] https://www.unfpa.org/news/female-islamic-preachers-call-womens-rights-contraception-niger

[4] https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/345rank.html#NG

[5] https://www.one.org/africa/blog/they-cant-google-so-they-ask-me-about-their-rights/

[6] https://www.unfpa.org/news/female-islamic-preachers-call-womens-rights-contraception-niger

[7] https://www.one.org/africa/blog/they-cant-google-so-they-ask-me-about-their-rights/

Generation Unlimited Youth Challenge

By Michelle Nelson von Euw

Source: Hemanth297

“Investment and attention for youth today is no longer an option but an obligation. It is about preparing a future leadership, responsible and committed to defend and build the country and safeguard a heritage.” – Diana Ofwona,  UNDP Resident Representative

In September 2018, four international organizations (UNICEF, UNDP, Plan International and the World Organization of Scout Movement) joined together to launch the Generation Unlimited Youth Challenge (GenU), an initiative that called on 800 innovators between the ages of 14 and 24 from 16 different countries to find solutions to issues of employment, education, and entrepreneurship. They were asked to answer the urgent question, “How can we ensure every young person has an education, skills and empowerment to build a better future?” Applicants then submitted their innovative ideas to the GenU Review Board  The five most promising ideas from each of the 16 countries received a monetary award of $1,000 (USD) and mentoring services to further plan and implement their initiatives. The best project from each country moved on to a final global judging process and received an additional $20,000 (USD) in funding. This project yielded five winning teams whose innovative ideas sparked change in their respective countries. As an example, Team Amigo from Zimbabwe, one of the five winners, aimed to bring education directly into the homes of those who had difficulty getting to school and those who had to drop out due to lack of resources. With the help of the GenU funding, Team Amigo is developing an app which will give every student in Zimbabwe equal access to textbooks, tutorials, and additional learning materials.

GenU empowers youth to play an active role in creating a better world for themselves by giving them the funding and support necessary to implement creative solutions to the problems faced by their communities. This initiative shifts the power to young people who are better suited to assess the problems they face than governing bodies who observe from afar. GenU is giving a voice to a generation who has long been undervalued, and is allowing them to make important decisions regarding what international organizations can and should do for them. In December 2019, Niger was chosen for the implementation of GenU Youth Challenge 2.0 by the Scouts of Niger. This time around, 41 countries were chosen to participate. The application process launched in January of 2020 as GenU 2.0 moves forward and continues its mission of working in partnership with young people, for young people.

References:

“About Generation Unlimited: Our Time, Our Turn, Our Future.” Generation Unlimited, www.generationunlimited.org/.

“‘Generation Unlimited Youth Challenge 2.0’ Lands in Niger.” UNICEF, www.unicef.org/niger/press-releases/generation-unlimited-youth-challenge-20-lands-niger.

“Meet the Five Global Winners of the Generation Unlimited Youth Challenge 2018/2019.” Generation Unlimited, www.generationunlimited.org/news-and-stories/meet-five-global-winners-youth-challenge.


Why You Should Donate to Wells Bring Hope

by Catalina Macedo Giang

Niger is a country that has experienced more than her fair share of challenges. According to the 2019 UN Development Report, Niger ranked 189th out of 189 countries making it the poorest country in the world. With this poverty comes a lack of resources and infrastructure, which has a devastating impact on the population, particularly in the rural areas.

Over 64% of people in rural areas in Niger lack access to water.

Nine out of 10 Nigeriens don’t have access to the improved sanitation of even a simple latrine.

It’s because women and girls often walk four to six miles a day to collect water.

At first glance, it might seem that , as a landlocked nation,Niger simply lacks access to a reliable source of clean water, but that’s actually not the case. In reality, it is estimated that there are anywhere from 2.5 to 3 billion cubic meters of drinkable water. The challenge, however, is that this water is far from beyond reach, flowing in aquifers, which are 200-300 feet below ground. In fact, Niger ranks 8th highest of all African nations in terms of the productivity of its aquifers.

Groundwater storage for Africa – Panel (a) shows a map of groundwater storage expressed as water depth in millimeters  (Döll and Fiedler 2008). Panel (b) shows the volume of groundwater storage for each country. Source: IOPscience

Tragically, people in Niger die every day for lack of that which is plentiful just a couple of hundred feet below ground, clean water. Accessing that water requires expert water engineers and multi-million dollar drilling rigs to access the water, but once the well is drilled, there is no danger of it running dry. The people of Niger don’t need or want endless support. Once the well is drilled, life in the village is transformed for generations. Thanks to our partners at World Vision, we are able to jump start that change with just $6,100 – our cost for drilling a well. With your support, we can give Niger a chance at a brighter future.

References:

https://www.charitywater.org/our-projects/africa/niger

https://globaleducation.edu.au/case-studies/wells-and-pumps-in-niger.html

https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/climate-change-water-and-conflict-the-niger-river-basin

http://hdr.undp.org/en/2019-MPI

https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/7/2/024009

Humanitarian Response Plans and a New UN Office in Niger

by Michelle Nelson von Euw

Humanitarian aid organizations and the government of Niger are scrambling to design more targeted relief plans to respond to the recent upsurge in violence at the hands of armed groups in Niger. Violence in areas that border Burkina Faso, Mali, and Nigeria has created yet another challenge for already vulnerable populations in Niger. In addition to the violence, natural disasters like flash floods , plant diseases, and related agricultural epidemics, have increased since July 2019 and resulted in the destruction of a number of fresh water reservoirs, which in turn  caused the death of a large quantity of livestock. Unfortunately, according to recent weather forecasts, this situation is only expected to worsen over the coming year.

On November 20th, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released its funding overview which stated that its Niger Humanitarian Response Plan of 2019 required an additional $160.5 million (42% of the original target). This budget was put into place as a response to the “emergence of new humanitarian needs and the persistence of the needs not covered” by previous relief efforts. In 2019 alone, 1.6 million people in Niger faced food insecurity, 1.8 million suffered from malnutrition, over 437,000 refugees have been displaced, and over 295 security incidents were reported. The humanitarian crises facing Niger have been exacerbated by instability in neighboring countries which are ill-equipped to handle the influx of refugees and facing violent crime on their own. While it was unable to reach its goals in 2019, OCHA continues to reach out to previous donors in the hopes of completing its projects by the end of 2020. The targets of the response plan include:

  • Treating 381,700 children for malnutrition
  • Immunizing 110,000 children against measles
  • Providing access to safe drinking water for 95,000 people
  • Distributing household items to 143,500 people affected by violent conflict and natural disasters

 

As a result of the needs of the country, on December 9th the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, and the government of Niger formalized an agreement to open the first-ever UN Human Rights Office in the country. The debut of this new office serves as a symbol of Niger’s commitment to promoting human rights and protecting its citizens, particularly the most vulnerable: refugees, migrants, women, and children. The office will work to:

  • Strengthen democracy with the increased involvement of women and youth
  • Provide policy assistance to the Government of Niger to ensure the protection of economic and social rights
  • Support legal reform to administer justice and protect human rights
  • Assist the government of Niger with the construction of a human rights compliance framework

 

References:

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2019). The Niger: Response Overview of December 2019. Retrieved from https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/CA7230EN.pdf

United Nations Children’s Fund. (2019). Niger Humanitarian Situation Report. Retrieved from https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/UNICEF%20Niger%20Humanitarian%20Situation%20Report-%2031%20August%202019.pdf

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. (2019). Niger: Humanitarian Situation Overview as of 06 December 2019. https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/ner_humanitarian_situation_overview_06112019.pdf

United Nations Office of the Hight Commissioner for Humans Rights. (2019). UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to Open Office in Niger. Retrieved https://reliefweb.int/report/niger/un-high-commissioner-human-rights-open-office-niger

The Wodaabe Gerewol festival

by Raphaela Barros Prado

Much has been written about Niger and the challenges it faces. According to the United Nations Human Development Index, Niger was ranked 187th of 188 countries in 2015 and 189th out of 189 countries in the 2018 report. The nation has grappled with a range of issues due to its land-lock position including inefficient agriculture, high fertility rates, poor educational levels, lack of infrastructure, poor healthcare, and more. Niger also suffers with security issues because of the cross-border influx of terrorists and  militant groups as they can easily cross the borders without having to cross the ocean. Besides, a land-lock country may also suffer with the sense of physical isolation as people feel they are unfortunate to depend on other countries and they end up having a local mindset instead of an international and open minded one. In this situation, old mindset kings can take advantage of the environment and will have more power and chance to rule the country for longer time besides  inhibiting  the progress of the nation .

Source – Dan Lundberg

Despite all the difficulties people in Niger face, have succeeded in keeping their traditions and culture alive. One example of this is the Gerewol Festival, which has been celebrated by the people in the Tahoua region for centuries. The weeklong festival is a ritual courtship competition held by the Wodaabe Fula people each year.  During Gerewol, young men wear traditional face paint and elaborate ornamental dress. They then line up to dance and sing in order to attract the young women in the village. It’s basically a male beauty contest!

Source –  Dan Lundberg – 1997 #274-24 Gerewol

The Wodaabe people value height and bright white teeth and eyes in men, so the male beauty contestants will roll their eyes and bare their teeth during the dance to impress the young women who are evaluating them. The judging is tense, with the young women walking down the line of dancers, poker faced in accordance with the Wodaabe pulaku, or code of behavior. Then woman each taps her favorite man, and everyone rushes in to celebrate and congratulate the winners – being selected is a huge honor. The women then return to their camps and wait. If the chosen men like them, they follow.

Source – Dan Lundberg

Thanks to documentary films and National Geographic articles about Guerewol the ritual has become more widely known in recent years. Occasionally, foreign tourists can be seen taking in this unique courtship ritual.

Since the festival can only be held if there is enough water to support the hundreds of people that the festivities attract, Guerewol is not held during times of severe drought. More recently, instability caused by the insurgency of Boko Haram has resulted in less frequent Guerewol festivals. Forunately, the traditional dance can still be seen at tourists hotels in eastern Niger where it is performed by troops of Wodaabe. Hopefully, these staged performances will help to preserve the tradition for future generations of Nigeriens.

References –

Megan Lane, The Male beauty contest judged by Women, “https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-12215138

Wikipedia, Guerewol, “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gu%C3%A9rewol

Water Conservation Challenge

By Caroline Moss

For some, water is available with a quick turn of a faucet, while others have to walk for miles every day to search for and collect water. Access to water is a privilege we often take for granted. Water is an invaluable resource, and easy access to it is a luxury for many people. On average, an American uses about 100 gallons of water per day while average use in sub-Saharan Africa is only two to five gallons of water per day.

  1. Turn off your faucets.

Bathroom faucets run at about 2 gallons of water per minute. What only takes a minute for you will take someone in rural Niger a walk of 3.7 miles per day on average to collect the water necessary for daily life. In your day-to-day, challenge yourself to never leave the faucet running if you’re not using it. Always turn off faucets when shaving or brushing teeth.

  1. Shorten your showers.

Use your phone timer to hold yourself accountable for shorter showers. Aim for 5-minutes or less. A 4-minute shower uses approximately 20 to 40 gallons of water! An American taking a 5-minute shower uses more water than a rural African uses for all activities in a day.

  1. Full-loads only!

Only run the washing machine when you have a full load of clothes. Sort clothes by color and challenge yourself to wait to wash until you have a full load. Most high-efficiency washers use 15 to 30 gallons of water to wash clothes. For those in Niger, a washing machine, fishing destination, and drinking water may all be the same place.

  1. Use the dishwasher.

You might be surprised to learn that pre-rinsing your dishes can actually waste more water than dishwasher itself. If you do pre-rise, make sure to save the water for all of your dishes. A dishwasher uses an estimated 9 to 12 gallons of water per wash. Hand-washing dishes uses an estimated 9 to 20 gallons of water.

These are just a couple examples of ways to reduce your water consumption. The facts are interesting, but I challenged myself to take the Wells Bring Hope Seven Gallon Challenge to become more aware of my own water usage. The Challenge is to limit our water usage to seven gallons of water per day, which is a high estimate of how much the average rural African uses in a day.

Some parts of the challenge were easy like turning off the faucet to brush my teeth. Other parts of the challenge were difficult. I timed myself for a five-minute shower (3 gallons per minute) and tried to flush the toilet as few times as possible. It made me recognize that my ordinary routine isn’t ordinary and gave meaning to the facts and statistics above. I invite you to take the 7 Gallon Challenge, so that you can experience for yourself how much water the average rural African uses in a day.

 

SOURCES:

Breyer, Melissa. “36 Eye-Opening Facts about Water.” TreeHugger, Treehugger, 11 Oct. 2018,

https://www.treehugger.com/clean-water/36-eye-opening-facts-about-water.html.

 

Caruso, Bethany. “Women Still Carry Most of the World’s Water.” Quartz, Quartz, 24 July

2017, https://qz.com/1033799/women-still-carry-most-of-the-worlds-water/.

 

Cowan, Shannon. “45 Ways to Conserve Water in the Home and Yard.” Eartheasy Guides &

Articles, https://learn.eartheasy.com/guides/45-ways-to-conserve-water-in-the-home-and-yard/.

 

Houzz. “11 Ways To Save Water At Home.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 31 Mar. 2015,

https://www.forbes.com/sites/houzz/2015/03/31/11-ways-to-save-water-at-home/#71cc586b166c.

 

Shryock, Ricci. “Life on the River Niger.” Niger | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 20 Apr. 2016,

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2016/04/life-river-niger-160414093402652.html.

 

Watkins, Kevin. “Human Development Report 2006.” Human Development Report 2006, United

Nations Development Program, http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/reports/267/hdr06-complete.pdf.