by Jennifer Dees

 Image source

December 18th was the 60th anniversary of the Republic of Niger. The event, held in Zinder, celebrates the achievements and progress of Niger since its proclamation in 1958. It was attended by the President of the Republic, Issoufou Mahamadou, and many other officials throughout Niger and surrounding countries.

The celebration against the backdrop of the Zinder Saboua Program initiated earlier this year. The program includes urbanizing 25 km of road and improvements to airport infrastructure, which will give the airport international status. These improvements will allow for more connectivity among surrounding countries and an increase in food cargo. The Dollé Market was also recently modernized, including 2,151 shops, sales halls, an administrative block, prayer areas, and sanitary blocks. It has become one of three modern markets in Niger (Niamey, Maradi, and Zinder). Issoufou hopes that this rehabilitation will restore Zinder to a prosperous commercial hub. Beyond infrastructure improvements, tour circuits were offered to highlight the cultural, historical, and natural potential of the region, from the tomb of an early founder of the region, through the winding alleys between traditional architecture, to the palace of the Sultan of Damagaram. Tourism generates 9,000 jobs and creates 32 billion FCFA per year. All of these additions and improvements attest to the fast growth of Nigerien cities.

The ceremony itself began with a welcome song, performed by children from a Zinder school, and the decoration of several people for service to the Nation. This led into the colorful military and civil parade with representatives from five Sahel countries. The previous three days included competitions celebrating the creativity of actors, artists, writers, singers, musicians, and dancers throughout the region. The festivities included a handicraft fair as well as a competition by I3N to encourage women’s contributions to food security. Representatives from different regions of Niger presented products they processed from grains, fruits, and vegetables. They were rewarded cash prizes for the best product and cooking. These innovations are important for farmers in the event of overproduction. The festivities concluded with traditional satirical theater called Wassan Kara, in which youths imitate various historical figures in Zinder and throughout the world to gain an appreciation of their heritage.

With a celebration of the past, it’s natural to look to the future. While cities in Niger continue to grow and strengthen connections between themselves and the world, Wells Bring Hope strives to help develop the rural villages that interconnect all of Niger. Places like Zinder once had poor water security and little economic opportunity. Along with the unending perseverance of rural villagers, Wells Bring Hope will continue to empower women and girls to recognize that their lives and their futures are also cause for celebration.