Adolescence is a phase separate from both early childhood and adulthood. It is a transitional period that requires special attention and protection. Adolescence is also when gender norms are either solidified, rejected or transformed.
Social and gender norms present significant challenges for children in Niger. Adolescents and youth, particularly girls, face major constraints to fulfilling their potential: 76 per cent of girls are married before 18; 36 per cent of adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 have already given birth or are pregnant and only 26.9 per cent are literate, versus 50.2 per cent of boys.
The most vulnerable girls in Niger are characterized by one or more of the following five conditions: i) being an early mother; ii) getting married early; iii) not having access to prenatal care by a skilled provider; iv) being illiterate; v) not having access to a source of information; improved drinking water. While 11% of girls suffer from five conditions simultaneously (20% in Maradi and Zinder, 11% in Diffa in 2006), there are great disparities in terms of wealth, level of education and especially residence.
Adolescents, particularly teenage mothers and children with special needs, do not receive services adapted to their needs. Niger has enacted major laws, policies and strategies to combat gender-based violence and promote gender equality, but competing customary, religious and national laws result in ambiguities for rights holders and duty bearers.