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At a glance: Niger

Empowering women to improve child survival in Niger

© UNICEF Niger/2009
Tvery few weeks, a community animator visits the village of Guidan Cherifi to promote essential family practices.

By Joelle Onimus-Pfortner

MARADI, Niger, 14 August 2009 – The harvest period in the village of Guidan Cherifi has just come to an end, and the millet stalks are neatly bundled at the entrance of the village. Normally at this time, the women of the village can be seen working in the fields, or pounding millet for their family’s evening meal.

Today, however, the women are gathered on the village square, under the cooling shade of the mango trees.  They have come to listen to community animator Biba Abbas – who works for a micro-finance institution – during one of her regular visits.

Every few weeks, Ms. Abbas visits to promote essential family practices. Today, she is explaining the use of Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS), a simple way to treat diarrhoea.

When she is finished, the woman of the group will repeat the demonstration, to make sure the message is clear.

UNICEF Niger has developed this communication project to promote essential family practices, targeting the root causes related to poor child care at both the family and community levels.

The project promotes the adoption of seven key family practices that are considered essential for child survival in Niger: use of Oral Rehydratation Salts for diarrhoea, hand washing, complimentary feeding, vaccinations, care-seeking, and exclusive breastfeeding.

Tatali groups

The project is designed to last a period of three years and target a population of 74,000 people, living in 51 localities in the region of Maradi. The aim is that by the end of the project 50 per cent of targeted families will have adopted the seven essential family practices.

"Six months ago, when they heard that women in other villages were improving their living conditions through income-generating activities, the women of Guidan Cherifi created a women’s group called Tatali,” said Ms. Abbas. Tatali means ‘savings’ in Haussa, the local language.

Ms. Abbas notes that the Tatali group started saving money until they became entitled to receive a micro-loan, which they used to start their own income-generating activities.

Empowering women

Every elected community animator like Ms. Abbas is equipped with a set of communication devices such as flipcharts and monitoring and reporting sheets. Animators also organize group discussions in the places where people meet traditionally, such as Guidan Cherifi's village square.

Interpersonal and group communication sessions offer rural women a good opportunity to express themselves as well as to find answers to their questions. This is a good way of empowering women and of offering them understanding of their possibilities and needs.

“I can already see the difference in the village,” says Ms. Abbas, who notes that the number of diarrhoea cases she has seen has been cut by three.

“But it is in the women that you see the biggest difference. They are more involved in decision making at the family level as well as in the village. They have gained some dignity.”



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