Adolescents and Social Norms

Adolescence is often paradoxical – a time both of risk and vulnerability, and of peak growth and potential. In Niger, children’s second decade of life is a challenging period.

UNICEF
UNICEF Niger/Pirozzi

Challenges

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.

Solutions

Through its programme, UNICEF’s focus is on building the capacity of the most vulnerable adolescents: adolescent mothers (for impact on two generations - young mothers and their children); out-of-school and out-of-school adolescents; especially in rural areas.

The capacity building of adolescents and young people is seen in a holistic way, targeting not only adolescents but also policies and norms to create an environment conducive to the participation and development of adolescents and young people (changes in behavior and social norms, spaces for social and intergenerational dialogue, spaces for participation at all levels).

UNICEF supports the Government to promote positive changes in behaviour and social norms protecting youth, particularly girls, in their communities and families, and promoting their voices and agency in key planning and decision-making arenas.

UNICEF invests in the opportunity for adolescent girls and boys to acquire critical assets as they grow; the abilities, skills, values and experiences to negotiate multiple life domains, to avoid risky behaviors and become economically independent.

UNICEF works to connect young people to decision makers and influencers, so that their participation in society translates into positive change in policies, practices and attitudes.

It will support participation spaces and processes that are inclusive and accessible, particularly for young mothers.

Through partnerships with CBOs, traditional and religious leaders, national and local influencers and the media, UNICEF promotes social norms, beliefs and attitudes which are protective of children’s rights, empowering for youth and enhances youth participation and inter-generational dialogue.

Resources

Available publications, surveys, reports will be added in this section