Partnering with Religious Leaders and Groups
Niger's traditional and religious leaders committed to children's rights
NIAMEY, Niger, 13 December 2019 - Traditional and religious leaders from across the country committed themselves this week to promoting the rights of children to education, health and protection, as the first of a nationwide forum closed in Niamey on Friday 13 December.
In Niger, traditional and religious actors have deep and trusted relationships with their communities and connections to disadvantaged and vulnerable members.
As such, they are particularly well placed to address inequity related to societal factors – such as social norms, behaviours and practices that affect access to services or fuel discrimination and deprivation – and thus facilitate efforts towards the realization of the rights of the most disenfranchised.
Hundreds of imams, chiefs of canton, Alkali, pastors, reverends and other religious figures spent five days discussing ways of developing actions that can be implemented at community level to improve opportunities for children. The closing declaration of the forum committed participants to providing awareness on children's rights.
"We commit ourselves to federate our speeches, our preaches and sermons - each time that we are given the opportunity - to communicate in favor of the promotion of the well-being of the child."
The participants identified five key areas around which they will now work at community level to advocate on children's and women's rights. These areas included identifying ways of increasing educational opportunities for children, awareness raising on protection issues, advocating for access to basic social services that include healthcare, nutrition and water, hygiene and sanitation services.
"We commit ourselves, through the holy texts, to work for a massive social and behavior change at community and family levels, with regard to the rights and well-being of the child, who is the most vulnerable segment of our population. We are also committed to promoting responsible parenthood for all children, who are the future of the nation"
Speaking at the closing session of the forum, H.E. Assoumana Malam Issa, Minister of Cultural Renaissance, told participants that "you have lit our lantern. You have shown that religion and religious leaders shape social values and promote responsible behaviours that respect the dignity and sanctity of all life."
"Religious leaders held a unique position as communicators of wisdom, compassion, devotion and good counsel" and described the decision of religious leaders in Niger to promote children's rights as "one of courage and vision."
UNICEF and partners consider the religious community to be a vital partner in ensuring improved opportunities for women and children.
"Due to their moral influence, religious leaders can influence thinking, foster dialogue and set priorities for their communities. Religious leaders are skilled and influential communicators who can reach the hearts and minds of people in ways that other actors cannot" concludes UNICEF Representative, Félicité Tchibindat.