“A maternity unit to save our mothers, wives and sisters.” Young people leading change in Niger

Education, Governance, Health, Rights, Youth

As we celebrate International Youth Day, Weifane Ibrahim explains how young people are leading change in rural Niger with the support of Oxfam’s My Rights, My Voice project.

13 km west of Say and 51 km east of Niamey, Niger’s capital, on the right bank of the river, you can see the roofline of a large village: Kohan Garanke.

For some months now within the village and the surrounding area, the inhabitants have not stopped praising the young people of this village. Their determination to bring their ideas to fruition has amazed more than one person.

MRMV report download link

In fact, the young people of the village, on their own initiative, decided to block a Koris (stream bed) that threatened to destroy some of the houses and split the village. Then they pledged to build a “maternity unit to save the lives of our mothers, wives and sisters,” as they like to say.

This mobilization, unprecedented in this area, is one of the promising results from My Rights, My Voice (MRMV), an initiative driven by young people. The project is funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and implemented on the ground by Oxfam International and its partners in eight countries including Niger.

Girls, once confined to housework, and boys, once accused of all kinds of evil, laziness and crime, today have an opportunity to express themselves – in other words, to be heard by the community. They are now included and consulted with in the decision-making processes that involve the community.

This awakening of young people springs from the philosophy of the project which aims to provide spaces within society for young people to reflect, to learn and to develop their knowledge, recognize their rights and find their voice. In each village, it is expected that the dynamics of the project will mean that young people will become aware of the need to work together and organise themselves, win the respect of the population by making themselves useful, and to express themselves to protect their rights.

Young people are not only the targets of the intervention, but also the agents of change and the bearers of the advocacy messages.

The project aims to promote the rights to education and to sexual and reproductive health to young people, who are not only the targets of the intervention, but also the agents of change and the bearers of the advocacy messages.

In Niger, the MRMV project is taking place in the Tillabéry region, specifically in the Say, Tera and Torodi departments. This project is being implemented in collaboration with three Oxfam partners:  VIE KNB, education specialists, who are building the momentum around meeting space, DIMOL which is covering sexual and reproductive health training and Coalition ASO-EFA for national level advocacy.
These actors are responsible for supervising and training young people on their rights to services related to sexual and reproductive health, and their rights to education. The ideal outcome is that they then become active agents of change, seeking, through awareness campaigns, as much as possible to have their voice heard and recognized as legitimate.

In order to make this task easier, with the support of Oxfam and its partners, young people have been organized into 70 meeting areas with each meting made up of five groups of 20 young people, so involving 100 young people, making a total of 7,000 young people involved in the intervention.

The MRMV project has initiated groups, mentoring and on-site training measures, especially young leaders’ for the meeting areas and the Advisory Youth Council.

Based on their expertise combined with the different forms of supervision and approaches to organisation/awareness-raising, young people have to develop the ability to analyse their lifestyle, their surroundings and the way they live every day. To return to the level of the village, the young people of Kohan Garanke allowed their thinking to mature and projected themselves into the future which led them to initiate the ingenious and ambitious plan to build a maternity hospital, “to save our mothers, wives and sisters.”

What is certain is that the young people of the village of Kohan firmly believe in their commitment and play an active role in the harmonious development of their area while remaining convinced that “no woman should have to die to give life,” and that “education remains the foundation of development.”

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Author: Weifane Ibrahim
Archive blog. Originally posted on Oxfam Policy & Practice.