Alphadi: new ‘Champion for children’s rights’ in Niger

‘I am a fierce advocate of children’s rights'

By Juan Haro & Islamane Abdou
Alphadi: new ‘Champion for children’s rights’ in Niger
UNICEF Niger/Islamane A.
03 July 2019

Alphadi is pure energy. He doesn’t rest for even a second. Just two days before the opening of the 12th edition of The International Festival of African Fashion, FIMA, in Niamey, his office is a hotbed of calls, shouting, laughs, requests, and doors that open and close without stopping. He is preparing something unique. He is polishing it like a Tuareg polishes his jewels.

His hat remains frozen on his head despite him racing through the corridors. Suddenly it's our turn. We introduce ourselves, 'Islamane, Multimedia Producer at UNICEF Niger, Juan Haro, Communication Specialist. A pleasure'. 'Alphadi, you already know me' he says welcoming us. ‘You know what we're coming for. Let's talk about children rights, particularly girls in Niger’.

UNICEF Niger/Juan Haro & Islamane Abdou

How do you see the current situation for young girls in the country?

I believe that the respect and protection of the young women of our country will represent a victory for Niger. We have an obligation to give young girls the opportunity to love themselves and to appreciate each other. Nigerian girls are facing enormous challenges and I see them as fragile, without the necessary protection. It is everyone's responsibility to support them so that they can go to school, study, and create opportunities for themselves.

I do not want women just to look pretty. No. I want them to feel beautiful, respected, and strong.

Sometimes I receive parents who ask me to coach their children, girls and boys, in fashion to develop their potential and their careers. This is important in country like Niger. 

How do you see the fashion industry as an opportunity for Niger's youth?

Fashion has an enormous potential in Niger. With more than half of the population under 18, Niger is young. With the necessary support, fashion can be the flame for change for youth and children in Niger.Young boys and girls can find in fashion a form of identity, dignity, a way to express themselves, to be heard, recognized and respected. If we invest in the industry, the creation of jobs for young people could be possible.

I am especially worried for the young girls from 12 to 18 years old who are victims of the scourge of child marriage.I believe that creating fashion schools for these girls can save them from a violation of human rights as aberrant as marrying a 12-year-old girl. They can create their own fashion shops or brands to sell their products accessible to the market, make a revenue and be autonomous.

Fashion gives an identity to women, girls, boys, and youth. Fashion empowers girls to be stronger.

I do believe fashion and the spirit of FIMA can be a change maker to retain young Africans in their home countries, to stay in the continent, and to contribute towards sustainable development.

What about this year edition of FIMA?

This year, on the occasion of the 33rd edition of the African Union in Niger, FIMA will be a great opportunity to draw the attention of African leaders towards the importance of fashion as a link of hope between the rights of children and their future in Niger, in Africa.

I have the support of the Government of Niger to continue my work as a fashion designer and to create opportunities for young talents within the African fashion industry. I am commited to give dignity to African fashion, to the African youth.

This year there will be surprises in the show, do not miss it.

A message to inspire people to support girl’s rights?

Think of your mothers, your sisters. Which kind of world do you want for them to live in? Protect them Support them. Love them.Give them the opportunity to choose what they want in their lives. Isn’t it?

Alphadi, born in Timbuktu, Mali, is an international fashion designer, founding President of the African Federation of Couture since 1994, and also, founding President of the International Festival of Fashion in Africa - FIMA, launched in Niger, in the desert of Tiguidit to present and promote the artwork of African creators to the world of arts. Since the first event Alphadi was called "Magician of the desert".

After university studies in tourism and marketing, Alphadi decides to devote himself to his passion: Fashion. Alphadi considers himself ‘a fierce advocate of children’s rights in Niger’ and collaborates with UNICEF in a project to give visibility to the issue of child marriage.

The UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage promotes the rights of adolescent girls to avert marriage and pregnancy, and enables them to achieve their aspirations through education and alternative pathways. The Global Programme supports households in demonstrating positive attitudes, empowers girls to direct their own futures, and strengthens the services that allow them to do so. It also addresses the underlying conditions that sustain child marriage, advocating for laws and policies that protect girls' rights while highlighting the importance of using robust data to inform such policies.

The Global Programme is generously supported by the Governments of Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom and the European Union, as well as Zonta International.