‘Contributing to the promotion of gender equality in schools’ is one of the RAEDD programmes, which is being implemented in the Illela region, and is funded by the Spanish International Cooperation Agency.
The reasons for the project.
Inequalities between men and women increase and perpetuate poverty, but also hamper women and girls’capacity to overcome it and to seize opportunities to be less vulnerable.
Sustainable development can’t be achieved without getting rid of the constraints women and girls are submitted to. Such constraints include : low self-confidence, exclusion from social services, from training and from developing one’s skills, exclusion from information as well as from decision-making within the development agencies in their communities and homes.
So, gender equality is at the core of economic and social progress. Though separate, the goals of sustainable development and of equal rights are closely linked.
The project advocated by RAEDD fits into that framework. It is founded onCEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all Discriminations Against Women) whose article 16 states that :’Women have the same rights as men in marriage matters’.
Women must exercise their right to choose their husband freely, and to accept or refuse marriage (parents must not impose their choice of a husband to their daughter, nor forbid their daughter marrying a boy she has chosen).
Women have the same rights as men regarding all that is good for their children (the husband cannot decide to withdraw a daughter from school to marry her away, his wife has the right to oppose such a decision).
Women have the right to space births, or limit them, they are entitled to get information on means or methods to exercise that right (women have the right to take the pill or injections not to get pregnant, or to use contraceptive devices).
Thus, CEDAW is a good means to promote gender equality and to trigger off initiatives in favour of sustainable development.
How can that be achieved given the social and cultural context in Niger ?
In the Illela region, young men (often illiterate) emigrate to cities in more affluent countries. Returning to their village, they are bent on getting married; then girls, even though they are still enrolled at school, are offered to them in marriage. As for the men who are already married, they take a second or third wife, or abuse a schoolgirl, who often ends up giving up school because of an unwanted pregnancy or HIV contamination.
Our agency offers to intervene in rural schools, so as to better prepare tomorrow’s men and women, and to enlighten parents on the need to put an end to child marriages. RAEDD is aware that for some families keeping their daughters at school has sometimes resulted in unwanted pregnancies.
That is why the strategy of RAEDD will rest on community agreements so as to guarantee, on the one hand, the parents’commitment to ban early marriages, and on the other hand, a commitment from schools and state services to better inform the young about procreation. That work will be carried out in close collaboration with local communities and state-run services (primary and secondary education, literacy schemes, health and communication).
The particulars of the project.
Our goal is that in the Illela region girls should attend school longer and be less exposed to early marriages and unwanted pregnancies.
To that end, the following initiatives will get organised :
- a workshop on girls’schooling.
- a workshop on teaching procreation, individual and social education.
- debates in the communities about the hurdles to girls’school attendance (debates in women’s groups, held separately from men’s groups).
- information kits to raise awareness of the need to promote girls’education.
- organisation of a long-term campaign in the communities, through radio broadcasts, video programmes, theatre forums, debates about girls’ schooling.
- purchasing and setting up 3 grain mills for 3 women’s groups.
supplying schools with textbooks, classroom equipment and teaching aids.
A Family Responsibility handbook was drafted in 2009, and has been used since then to train several groups of some 15 primary and secondary school teachers within the Decentralized Cesson-Dankassari cooperation scheme.
In 2014 a training session was organized for the teachers of Matankari and for teachers in Community Development Training Centers.
In 2015, a training session was organized for the school principals and the teachers of Kieche.