According to the 2020 UNDP Human Development Report, Niger is the least developed country globally. The volatile security situation, migration flows, high population growth, low literacy and education levels, coupled with climate change and natural disasters, decrease in agricultural production, and gender inequalities, are hampering the country’s long-term human development. Niger has one of the fastest-growing and youngest populations in the world. Over 58% of Nigeriens are under 18. 84% of the population lives in rural areas. The extreme poverty rate remained high at 42.9% in 2020, affecting more than 10 million people. Niger is among the world’s countries with the lowest girls’ enrolment, retention, and school completion rates. According to UNICEF, 2.5 million children and adolescents are out of school. Only 19% of girls in rural areas complete primary education, and this number drops to a worrying 8% among the poorest wealth quintile. The low female education rates directly translate to long-term gender inequality and systematic social and economic disempowerment of women.

There are a complex range of demand-side and supply-side barriers that prevent the fulfillment of girls’ rights to education: 
On the demand side, harmful social beliefs, norms, and practices include: a lack of recognition of the importance of girls’ education, conservative/traditional women’s roles associated with religious believes (including the spread of jihadism); heavy burden of domestic labor on girls; high poverty levels; early marriage and teenage pregnancy. Niger has the highest child marriage prevalence rate in the world, according to UNICEF, with 76% of girls married before the age of 18 and 28% married before they turn 15. The link between education and the prevalence of child marriage is particularly evident in Niger: 81% of women aged 20-24 with no education and 63% with only primary education were married or in a union at age 18, compared to only 17% of women with secondary education or higher. In 2017, the government raised the mandatory school leaver’s age for girls to 16 – but much work remains to be done to change conservative social norms that prevent girls from accessing education and women from being socially and economically empowered. Acute poverty prevents families from paying school-related costs for girls, and insecurity puts girls at risk on their commute to school in Tillaberi, effectively preventing their attendance. 

On the supply side, schools are insufficiently prepared to provide a safe and conducive environment for girls to be educated. Teachers lack training not only on basic pedagogy but also on the concept of gender-sensitive education and safe schools for girls. There is a lack of female teachers as role models for providing girl-sensitive psychosocial support and life skills education. Classrooms are overcrowded and poorly equipped, and insufficient education materials are available to create a quality learning environment.  

Women are disproportionately affected by poverty in Niger; they lack vocational/professional training, entrepreneurship skills, and access to credit/loans from banks and microfinance services; and females have limited access to asset ownership. Limited mobility due to insecurity and conservative social norms makes it difficult for women to expand their social networks required to market and sell products in far-away markets. As a result, even if mothers have understood the importance of girls’ education, they lack the means to invest in their daughters’ futures. To respond to those needs, RET aims to increase girls’ access and retention in quality primary and secondary education and to promote women’s social and economic empowerment.

RET’s Interventions (2021-2024):

RET’s new project, “Promoting girls’ access and retention in quality primary and secondary education and women’s social and economic empowerment for inclusive and peaceful development in Niger, Tillabery Region,” proposes complementary interventions that systematically address both the demand-side and supply-side barriers to girls’ education while simultaneously promoting women’s social and economic empowerment via cooperative income generation. 

The project targets the Tillaberi region, located on the border of Burkina Faso and Mali, which is characterized by persisting insecurity, highly vulnerable households, and a high number of displaced populations. Currently, Tillaberi hosts 60,000 Malian refugees, over 7,000 citizens from Burkina Faso, as well as nearly 140,000 internally displaced Nigeriens. Within the Tillaberi region, the project intervenes in the departments of Say (commune of Tamou), Kollo (commune of Hamdallaye) and Tillaberi (commune of Sakoira). The three communes have an estimated total population of 209,524 inhabitants.

RET’s interventions in Niger are threefold, 
First, RET will increase girls’ access and retention in schools and support their transition to the next school grade in the project communities in Tillaberi by:
(1) creating 6 accelerated learning centers to re-integrate 900 out-of-school children, particularly girls, into the education system; 
(2) Building the capacity of 174 education staff to manage schools that are safe and conducive for girls’ retention and transition to higher grades;
(3) establishing nine community school committees, including student committees, train, and support committees to participate in school management and monitoring;
(4) Rehabilitating/constructing of 6 primary and 3 secondary schools with additional classrooms, restrooms, water supply, fencing, and greening;
(5) Provision of school furniture and education materials, including menstrual hygiene kits, to be distributed to 6 primary and 3 secondary schools;
(6) Facilitate access and retention of girls in the 9 targeted schools, including support to arrive safely at school, remedial education, performance incentives, girls’ clubs, life skills, and peace education;
(7) Setting up a system of 54 women mentors who provide individual guidance and support to 486 girl students;

Second, RET will also sensitize communities on the importance of girls’ education and women’s empowerment through awareness campaigns, events, recreational activities, community dialogue sessions…etc, involving traditional leaders in the ten targeted communities and mobilizing girls clubs in 9 schools. 

Third and finally, RET will increase women’s income through participation in women’s cooperatives, in tandem with their ability to pay for their daughters’ / vulnerable girls’ education in the communities in Tillaberi by:
(1) Establishing 20 women’s cooperatives with 1000 members and train them on cooperative management, business management, and technical trade training. The women will also receive inputs to start income-generating activities, with 40% of profits spent on vulnerable girls’ education.
(2) Building the capacity of the cooperatives through follow-up, business mentoring, and supervision, in tandem with facilitating their linkage to microfinance loans systems, marketing their products, and market linkages to potential buyers in Tillaberi and Niamey, paving the way to become independent after three years.

The project will target a total of 4,858 unique direct beneficiaries (66% females)

  • 900 out-of-school children, particularly girls 
  • 2520 primary and secondary school children, particular focus on girls education
  • 174 education staff
  • 180 school committee members
  • 36 traditional and religious leaders
  • 30 members of women’s and youth associations
  • 1000 women cooperative members

Ultimately, the project will target more than 50,000 indirect beneficiaries (families and community members.)

Partnerships and Coordination 
This transitional development project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented in partnership with SongES Niger (Soutien aux ONG à l’Est et au Sud Niger) (LNGO).
The project will be implemented in close coordination with the National Ministry of Education, and the National Ministry of Secondary Education, the Tillabéri Regional Directorates for National Education and Secondary Education, the Inspectorates of primary and secondary education in the intervention communes., the National Ministry of Women’s Development and Child Protection, and Tillabéri Regional Directorates for Women’s Development and Child Protection, the Regional Directorate for Community Development and Land Use and the Municipal authorities (town halls). 

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