Causes of Child Marriage and the Bigger Picture

By Michelle Nelson von Euw

A great deal of research has been done on child marriage in an effort to understand the causes, and effects, of this damaging practice. Child marriage refers to both formal and informal unions in which children under the age of 18 live with partners as if they are married. According to a recent study conducted by Girls Not Brides, 1 in 5 girls in the world are married before the age of 18. Over 650 million women alive today were married as children. Niger has the highest overall prevalence of child marriage in the world with 76% of girls under the age of 18 being married. One of the leading predictors of a high rate of child marriage is gender inequality. Girls are pushed into marriage because of how they are perceived by society: as a burden.

Due to limited economic and social opportunities, young girls in developing nations are often seen as liabilities and economic burdens. While women work in the home, this work is not valued as it does not generate income. This view of women has reinforced the use of the dowry and has contributed to the disempowerment of women and girls. The community structures that limit opportunities for young women are often the result of traditional practices. In many instances, traditional practices that are made the sole responsibility of women such as caring for children, housework, and water retrieval, are not questioned because they are seen as an integral part of a community’s identity. For example, in India, there is widespread awareness of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of 2006, which was enacted by the Supreme Court of India, but child marriage is still prevalent as many people feel that traditions and social norms are stronger than the law.

The supremacy of traditional practices creates great barriers to change. For example, in many nations around the world, women and girls are solely responsible for retrieving water for their homes. Unfortunately, water points are often miles away from the rural villages where the women live and may require hours of walking. This time-consuming practice greatly hinders a girl’s ability to receive education and women’s ability to find income-generating work.

Unfortunately, many young girls are taught that the only way to escape poverty is through marriage to a man with more wealth. This also means that women’s futures often rest in the hands of their spouses. For many, this means that there is no possible path to self-sufficiency. These cultural frameworks create an atmosphere of social and peer pressure that many girls feel unable to combat. This is particularly true in the case of the most vulnerable (orphans, those who have received little education, etc.) who are more susceptible to these forces. In order to break this cycle, child marriage must be stopped as the causes and effects are often circular. A lack of education leads to child marriage and child marriage often discourages, or completely eliminates, a girls’ choice to continue her education. In addition, child marriage is often associated with health risks like sexually transmitted diseases and obstetric fistulas, which further threaten a woman’s position in a community, making her even more vulnerable and reliant on her husband.

While the specific circumstances that lead to child marriage vary from girl to girl (limited education and economic opportunities, dowry systems, traditional and societal norms, and expectations, etc.), the underlying issue is gender inequality that disempowers women and girls. If there is hope for improvement, which I wholeheartedly believe there is, it is vital to understand that there is a need for societal standards that support gender equality. Communities must push back against prejudicial, traditional practices that marginalize half of the population. Increasing awareness of the laws that protect young girls can empower them to play an active role in making decisions that affect their lives. This can be a strong counter to societal pressures and can give girls the courage to break with tradition and operate outside of the status quo. Traditions and customs are not immutable, and empowerment is the gateway to change.

References:

Girls Not Brides. “Child Marriage Around the World.” Girls Not Brides, www.girlsnotbrides.org/where-does-it-happen/.

Steinhaus, M., Fenn, N., Gregowski, A. & Petroni, S. (2016). “’She Cannot Just Sit Around Waiting to Turn Twenty’ Understanding Why Child Marriage Persists in Kenya and Zambia.” ICRW.

United Nations International Emergency Fund. “Child Marriage.” UNICEF: What We Do.

Young Lives, Child Marriage and Female Circumcisions (FGM/C): Evidence from Ethiopia, Policy brief 21, July 2014.

So tell me again, why have we been panic buying toilet paper?

By Nick Baldry

When it became apparent that the coronavirus had not only reached the shores of the United States, but was taking hold to such an extent that we needed to shut down society as we know it, there was one fairly universal reaction. Panic.

That panic manifested itself in a number of ways. A common one was panic purchasing. Commodities flew off shelves. In very short order, my local supermarkets were stripped of fairly obvious items such as canned food and bottled water as people rushed to make sure that they had enough to survive an unknown period of time where they wouldn’t be able to leave home. This was despite the fact that stores would remain open and well-stocked during the lockdown. Scarcity created fear that other products would become increasingly scarce and a vicious cycle took hold.

Other less obvious products were purchased in almost unprecedented quantities. A report from the Guardian newspaper on March 17th described lines at the doors of marijuana dispensaries and video game stores in San Francisco prior to the local shelter in place order going into effect, as people prepared to spend day after day at home. Maybe a little less unexpectedly, alcohol sales also climbed steeply. In the US they were up 55% for the third week in March compared to the same time in 2019, according to CNN.

And then there was toilet paper…

I’ll be honest, if you had asked me at the beginning of the year what items I would have hoarded in a pandemic, I don’t think toilet paper would have made the list. Wine, definitely. Toilet paper would have been an afterthought at best.

Throughout the western world, we went potty over the stuff. Local Facebook groups were full of posts from residents asking for inside information on which supermarkets were getting a shipment in as they were down to their last roll or worse last few sheets. Some stocked up with a view to selling toilet paper at a markup, a practice that proved disastrous for one gentleman in Australia who tried to return $10,000 AUD worth of toilet paper and hand sanitizer that eBay was no longer letting him list for sale. The supermarket declined to offer him a refund. The toilet paper situation in Australia was apparently so dire that one newspaper printed a special edition with eight blank pages that could be ripped off and used in case of emergency.

Ultimately this was a staggeringly first world response to a pandemic. Toilet paper is not essential to survival. Water, yes. Food, yes. Wine, we’ll agree to disagree on that one. Toilet paper, no.

In the developed world we have the luxury of having at least one room in our home essentially dedicated to sanitation. We sit on the porcelain throne whiling away time on smartphones (at least 75% of us do according to a 2015 article and terrifyingly 63% of us have answered a call while using the facilities) safe in the knowledge that what we produce and any accompanying toilet paper will be whisked away cleanly and efficiently with a simple flush, never to be thought of again.

On the ground, in Niger, the need is far more fundamental. Instead of a rush on toilet paper, the need is toilets. Around 96% of people do not have access to sanitation, not even a basic latrine. People are left with no choice but to practice open defecation, a practice which is a key part of the lifecycle for diseases such as schistosomiasis and trachoma, as well as a variety of life-threatening diarrheal diseases.

This is all before we get to the implications of a pandemic like a coronavirus, a disease where one of the best defenses is handwashing – a simple intervention when you have access to clean water. When, like 61% of rural villagers in Niger, you don’t have access to such a basic resource as clean water, the potential for rampant spread is unimaginable.

Does the emergence of the coronavirus in Niger (which has confirmed 701 cases at the time of writing) mean there is a sudden need for wells and sanitation in Niger? No. The need is far from sudden, it has been there for generations. In a country where one in seven children dies before the age of five, where diseases linked to the lack of adequate sanitation have been and continue to be rife, coronavirus is just another on a depressingly long list of reasons why there is a need to fund wells, access to sanitation, and all of the other critical interventions Wells Bring Hope provides to people on the ground.

I’m not so worried about toilet paper. I have access to a toilet, clean running water, and other fundamental defenses against disease. Of course, the pandemic is a concern for myself and my family, but at least it isn’t exacerbated by a real threat of the diseases of poverty that threaten people throughout the developing world on a daily basis.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/17/life-under-shelter-in-place-long-lines-empty-roads-panic-buying-cannabis

https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/01/business/alcohol-sales-coronavirus-trnd/index.html

https://www.newsweek.com/man-who-bought-10000-worth-toilet-paper-hand-sanitizer-denied-refund-1498343?amp=1

https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/wipe-out/

https://www.thecut.com/2015/05/science-of-us-guide-to-bathroom-behavior.html

https://wellsbringhope.org/the-need/

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

My Journey as a Water Engineer

By Godfrey Oyuki

I come from a village called Abur in Osukuru sub-county, Tororo district, Uganda. My grandparents, father and all fourteen of his children were born there. It is located on a hill and the ground water table is very difficult to reach. There is no natural spring, no river, no stream, and no open water source in the entire area and it has been that way for many decades.

The only water source was more than six kilometers away and there were lots of hills to climb. I watched my grandmother fetching water, carrying it in a traditional pot molded from clay. If the pot fell, she would lose the water and also the pot. Her life was really difficult. It took a strong woman eight hours to walk back and forth to get water.

The other challenge was that this water source, our only water source, also served
animals that polluted the water. People would move their cattle every day from other villages and they do that to this day.

Rain was a major source of water and it collected between the hills, like small reservoirs, storing water for at least a month if animals didn’t invade the space. However, the water flowing through the soil and rock would pick up excess minerals and cause serious dental problems.

In 2003, our prayers were answered when the government drilled two borehole wells in our area. I was only eight years old. But sad to say, due to the high amount of fluoride in the well water, we were still forced to fetch drinking water from the same contaminated source. By 2014, the wells dried up. The high fluoride content made teeth very brown and impacted the lives of a whole generation of children who, upon leaving their village, faced ostracism for their appearance.

As a young child, I grew up believing that every society was like mine. It wasn’t until I got to high school that I realized other communities had very good water resources and lived a very good life. I also realized that I had to work hard to solve the water challenge in my village.  My dream to improve our water supply was strengthened when one of my village friends who got an electrical engineering degree, returned home and made sure the electrical grid reached our village. It made me believe that I could also bring about change in the life of my village.

The government has remained clueless about how to help people in our area and so the problem remains—my village has no other option than to use the same traditional water source shared with animals.

Having experienced these water challenges, my father encouraged me to pursue a course in Water Engineering as a way to give back to society. In 2018, I completed my B.S. degree in water resources engineering. I also did a project on aquifer recharge techniques to help solve the borehole drying challenges in my village and submitted it as a university undergraduate thesis.

I’m now working on a UN mission in Somalia as a Water and Sanitation Engineer, assigned to a company called I.A.G International L.L.C. I’m very proud to have achieved my goal and hope to one day have the resources to solve the water problem in my village.

Clean Water: An Essential Resource in the Fight against COVID-19

By Chidiebere Aguziendu

  Source: Vinoth Chandar

With the coronavirus pandemic currently threatening communities around the world, researchers across the globe are actively pursuing an effective treatment regimen and a vaccine, which could be more than a year away. While we wait for a vaccine, there are a few things we can do to try to slow the spread of the virus. Study after study has shown that handwashing is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of the disease, COVID-19 included.

Why is handwashing so significant? Because germs are most commonly transferred from one surface to another by hands. Research has indicated that COVID-19 can live on surfaces for up to three days. Therefore, to prevent the spread of this deadly virus, it is essential to practice impeccable hand hygiene. Unfortunately, this basic defense against COVID-19 and hundreds of other illnesses is unavailable to millions of people who lack access to safe water.  

We all know that water is vital to human existence. We can’t live more than a few days without it, but it goes far beyond that. Water is essential for cooking and more importantly, for hygiene. However, in many parts of the world, access to clean water is far from a given. Millions of people around the world do not have safe water to drink, let alone to use for hand washing or cleaning utensils.

The outbreak of the coronavirus is a reminder of the importance of easy access to clean water. Water scarcity is a global problem that requires urgent action, now more than ever.

References

https://www.npr.org/2020/03/18/817934601/how-long-can-coronavirus-survive-on-hard-surfaces

https://scroll.in/article/956777/washing-hands-is-key-to-containing-coronavirus-but-2-2-billion-people-lack-access-to-clean-water

https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/coronavirus-washing-hands-is-not-easy-when-you-have-no-running-water-20200315

Food of Niger and Nutritional Health

by Caroline Moss

According to 2019 Global Hunger Index, a report produced by the Irish humanitarian organization Concern Worldwide and the German aid organization Welthungerhilfe, Niger is the 16th hungriest country in the world. The causes of hunger go beyond a lack of available food to include population growth, drought, political instability, conflict, and lack of access to clean water. Because of drought, agriculture is unreliable, and many women are forced to walk to retrieve water for themselves and their families. Lack of enough nutritious food causes malourishment, which is a huge concern for the people of rural Niger.

Niger’s cuisine varies by location. In southern Niger, meals are built around millet, sorghum, rice, and niebé, a type of bean. These staples are plain, yet very filling. Millet is a versatile grain that originated in Africa. The grain is known for its drought resistance and the ability to grow in poor soil. Because of its resiliency, it has become a staple in diets and constitutes a large portion of calories consumed by Nigeriens, particularly in rural areas. Millet is pounded into flour, made into a paste or porridge, and then covered with a stew or sauce for flavor. The stews and soups are typically made with peanuts and vegetables. Many Nigeriens have poor diets because of the lack of dietary diversity and a high reliance on staple foods.  Because of chronic drought, fresh produce is scarce.

Saffron, nutmeg, and cinnamon are commonly used spices because of trade with northern Africa. Niger’s cuisine is influenced heavily by Arab and French traditions. Niger gained its independence from France in 1960 but still maintains many French traditions. Women do the majority of cooking while men work. Few recipes are written down, most are passed down orally from mother to daughter. Nigerien cuisine is less famous on an international level because few recipes are documented.

Rice and meat are often saved for special occasions. Pork is rarely eaten as the majority of the population is Muslim. Most meat is cooked on a grill over hot coals. Many people eat fish from the Niger river. Fish and beans provide much-needed protein for the population.

Tea is quite popular and has a strong social component for the Tuaregs, a nomadic tribe. The tea ceremony is described as somewhat onerous, because of the patience required. Three rounds of tea are served. The same tea leaves are used for each serving and increasing amounts of sugar are added each round. The first serving is called “bitter as death,” the second “mild as life,” and the third “sweet as love.” To leave before drinking all three rounds of tea is insulting, because of cultural implications and water scarcity.

Although the cuisine in Niger varies, one thing is certain, water is crucial to nutritional health.  Water aids in digestion, helps with nutrient absorption, and can help fight off illness. It is a human right and a vital part of human life. We may enjoy similar foods and recognized shared cultures, but all people do not have access to clean water. Consider donating to Wells Bring Hope today to give more Nigeriens access to clean water.

Darlene. “Our Journey to Niger and Nigeria.” International Cuisine, 1 Sept. 2017.

Fick, Maggie. “Tea with the Tuareg.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 17 Nov. 2007.

Giovetti, Olivia. “Fighting Hunger in Niger: 3 Causes of Hunger, 3 Causes for Hope.” 

“Niger Food and Drink Guide.” World Travel Guide.

Silver, Natalie. “Why Is Water Important? 16 Reasons to Drink Up.”  Healthline, 19 Mar. 2019.


Million more trees in Niger – An Australian farmer project that is silently changing the world

by Raphaela Barros Prado

Many nonprofit organizations in Niger were created to help communities with the issues they face everyday such as water scarcity, poverty, unemployment, violence, etc. One of the organizations started with the idea of improving. the environment by creating more green space in Niger’s desert landscape.

Tony Rinaudo is an Australian farmer who moved to Niger because of a strong desire to make a difference in the world. Rinaudo’s original goal was to reforest the world, but after two years of work, he found himself very frustrated as an intense drought was killing all the trees he planted. After observing small bushes surviving in the desert, Rinaudo took a closer look and realized that what he thought were bushes were actually trees that had been cut down and were re-sprouting from the stump. Rinaudo was struck by the fact that the whole time he’d been trying and failing to grow trees, there had been a huge, thriving root system beneath his feet. Rinaudo immediately changed tactics and began to focus on developing a plan to nurture this “underground forest.” He knew that since people had been responsible for removing the trees, they would have to be a part of the plan to restore them.

“In ‘discovering’ this underground forest”, Rinaudo recalls, “the battle lines were immediately redrawn. Reforestation was no longer a question of having the right technology or enough budget, staff or time. It was not even about fighting the Sahara Desert, or goats or drought. The battle was now about challenging deeply held beliefs, attitudes and practices and convincing people that it would be in their best interest to allow at least some of these ‘bushes’ to become trees again.”[i] Rinaudo immediately began work on developing a farmer-managed regeneration program that involved recruiting farmers and teaching them how to farm their land while also preserving some of the local species of trees. Rinaudo showed the farmers how allowing some native species to thrive actually improved their yield since the trees helped the soil retain water, the pruned branches could be used for mulch, and the foliage offered shade that ultimately reduced ground temperatures.

As his project became successful in Niger, Tony along with the World Vision organization, promoted the project across Africa, an effort that continues today. The program was low-cost, simple,  and easy to adapt, so it spread quickly through peer-to-peer interactions among Niger’s farmers. The results were astonishing, and the farmer-managed regeneration program spread to 22 other African countries. In Niger alone, about 6 million hectares of land were and over 200 million trees were regenerated over a 20-year period. The reforestation area is so big that it is visible from a satellite.

Source : John Englart

Because of the success of his project, Rinaudo was invited to participate in UN’s global climate talks in Katowice, Poland in 2018. He passed spread the word about his project, stopping by every meeting room and talking to every delegation. Today there are about 2 billion hectares of degraded land around the world, but most  of the lands could be restored and reforested with trees that could help to remove the carbon from the atmosphere and reduce global warming. Regeneration is not the sole solution for  climate change, but it is a powerful weapon in the larger fight.

Today, 30 years since the project began, Rinaudo is still hard at work. He received an award called Right Livelihood in 2018 at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm in recognition of his great job in Africa. What he created is much more than an agricultural technique, he has inspired a generation of farmers who will continue his work and get us all a little closer to his original goal – a greener world for all.

[i] The Right Livelihood Foundation


Two-Thirds of African Cities Face Extreme Climate Risk

By Satya Lakshmi V. Pasupuleti
Source : vladeb

Based on the climate analysis report published by British risk consultancy firm Verisk Maplecroft in November 2018, two-thirds of African cities are at an extreme risk of drought and heat waves caused by the climate change.

According to the report, two out of three cities on the African continent could experience serious negative effects from global warming by 2035. The increased vulnerability of these cities is attributed to rapid population growth and poor infrastructure.

Record levels of greenhouse gas emissions have contributed to an unacceptable warming pattern that has major implications for developing nations in Africa. These countries have experienced temperature increases that are much higher than the global average. African countries within 15 degrees of the equator are experiencing the highest frequency of heat waves and droughts.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), the western Sahel region is likely to experience the worst effects of rising temperatures with a major increase in the length of dry spells expected. West Africa was identified as a hotspot for climate change, which is likely to lessen crop yields and production, thereby impacting food security. The western region of southern Africa is also expected to become drier, with an increase in drought frequency and heat waves.

If the average  global temperature increases by 2° C, there will be major changes in the occurrence and intensity of temperature extremes in all of sub-Saharan Africa. This will result in increased frequency of heat-waves, droughts and changing rainfall patterns impacting the crop-yields.

In response to the increased risks associated with climate change, countries from across the globe came together in 2015 to adopt the historic Paris Agreement. In December 2018, world leaders met in Katowice in southern Poland, for the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), called as COP24, to finalize the rules for implementation of the agreement. The agreement was signed by 197 nations.

The UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) took place in December 2019 to take the next crucial steps in the UN climate change process. Along with the process and the changes introduced by UN and the world nations, it should be every individual’s responsibility to contribute towards reducing the global warming.

References:

https://www.africanews.com/2018/11/15/two-thirds-of-african-cities-face-extreme-climate-risk-the-morning-call/

https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/december-2018-march-2019/global-warming-severe-consequences-africa

https://unfccc.int/cop25


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/.