Mentoring for At-Risk Nomadic Girls in Rural Niger

by Rain for the Sahel and Sahara
Vetted
Tassel and purse
Tassel and purse

The nomadic girls in our Scholarship and Mentoring programs not only learn health education and receive life guidance and support, they also learn practical skills to earn income. Tuareg girls learn the artistic traditions in leather work, making camel saddle tassels and decorative purses.

Now through July 30, when you donate $25 or more, you'll receive a hand-crafted leather item created and signed by one of the girls in our Mentoring program in Niger - a very personal "thank you" straight from them to you!

And if you donate on Wednesday, June 13th, GlobalGiving will match your donation by 40%, nearly doubling your support of the girls and mentors in our programs!

To donate and receive your gift, visit http://www.globalgiving.org/dy/v2/gifts-for-good/detail.html?projectGift.id=65.

Thank you for all you do for those in rural Niger.

Links:

Hawa
Hawa

Located in the northern Agadez Air Massif region of Niger, Iferouane has a population of 5,000, comprised mostly of nomadic Tuareg people who practice animal husbandry, small scale farming and small enterprise. The women practice handcrafts and small trade.

In 2007, Iferouane was the site of the Second Tuareg Rebellion. Due to the insecurity caused by the rebellion, the residents had been without food for a number of weeks and many fled to Arlit or Agadez, staying in exile for nearly two years. In 2009, 90% of the population returned and began again, despite the damage to their homes, crops and school.

Iférouane is at the heart of the nomadic area of Niger, which is why many children come from the surrounding encampments to attend school. Iférouane has a primary school and a high school, however, many parents are reluctant to send girls to attend.

The challenges facing the community of Iférouane include extreme poverty, lack of educational opportunities, food and water shortages, and few opportunities for women, much like all rural nomadic areas in Niger. Girls in communities such as Iferouane are at a disadvantage in several ways – their families suffer from poverty, illiteracy, a challenging environment, and few opportunities to support themselves.

In Iferouane, the RAIN mentoring program is making a real difference in the lives of the girls who receive support and encouragement from their mentors: higher grades, better school attendance and retention levels, along with higher rates of continuation of their studies into the future. Two mentors had their ten girls graduate from primary school, and are still acting as mentors into secondary school.

We’d like to share one story of progress and success of a RAIN mentor in Iferouane:

“My name is Hawa Almoustapha, and I’m one of the ten mentors in the RAIN program to ensure access to education for nomadic children. At the start of each school year, RAIN team members help us launch our mentoring for the most vulnerable girls in our school. Our mentoring program, which began several years ago with primary school girls, has seen all the participants progress into the secondary level. All of us mentors are very proud of our students as they succeed in their studies and continue to perform well at the secondary levels. We have no doubt that all 56 girls will have the tools and the courage to stay in school succeed.

This year, RAIN has invested in mentors to begin a savings and credit system to boost our income generating activities and eventually support the mentoring program in part. The goal for each mentor is to save 250 CFA ($.50 USD) each week to grow our mutual fund. To date, our fund has reached 107,000 FCFA ($238 USD).

Based on these funds, along with the others mentors I received a loan of 20,000 FCFA ($45 USD), which allowed me to start a small business of selling seasoning products from my home to earn some income. With this new activity, I make a small profit margin that allows my business to grow and satisfy some of my children’s needs. It’s our hope to save sufficient funds to support the mentoring program and our families in the long term.”

Please accept the warmest thanks from both the girls and their mentors for making such a lasting difference in their lives!

Links:

Boulie and Fatima
Boulie and Fatima

As always, the most powerful stories of impact come from the beneficiaries themselves. Please enjoy this narrative from Boulie, one of our dedicated mentors and her student, Fatima.

My name is Boulie, I am a mentor in Bonfeba, a community located north of the Tillabéri region of Niger. I’m pictured here with my mentored girl, Fatima Alhassane, who is in the 6th grade this year. With RAIN’s support, I am mentoring 5 school children (3 girls and 2 boys) along with Fatima, whom I have been mentoring since 2009, when she was 8 years old. She is now 13, and this is her last year in our school.  When she graduates at the end of this year, she will go on to high school in Tillabéri next year.  I am very proud of Fatima, who is one of my success stories during all these years of mentoring. I will let her tell you our story: 

“At first, I went to school only when I felt like going, as my parents did not do much to encourage me. But then Boulie came along to motivate me to attend. She used to say:  ‘Fatima, you are a very intelligent and wonderful girl, you need to go to school and be somebody! You can be a nurse, a school teacher, whatever you want to be, if you go to school and succeed!’ Encouragement that leads you to dream about your future. I began to be interested in going to school, did not miss a class, arrived on time, and listened carefully to my teachers, and my grades began to be much better.

As with the other four mentored kids, Boulie will follow up on our schooling year after year. Sometimes she will invite me to her house to continue talking and working on practical skills. But when I reached the 5th grade, she noticed I was not attending my Saturday morning practical skills class. My father had me help at his general store instead – he said that I was old enough and so must help.  I wasn’t happy about working in the store while my friends were in class, and neither was my mother. Boulie understood, and said: ‘Don’t worry, I will not let him ruin your schooling when you’re about to finish primary school.’ She tried to persuade my father, but he continued taking me to the shop. She asked some community elders to talk to him, but he still refused. She decided that every Saturday she would go to the shop and get me to bring to class.  The first few Saturdays, my father was angry, but did not confront her. She continued every Saturday until everyone knew what was going on at my father’s store. Finally came the Saturday that my father left to go to his store without asking me to come with him. I knew that Boulie and I had won the battle and I ran to her house to tell her. Since that day, I have never missed a mentoring class, and my father isn’t angry with Boulie anymore as he sees me succeeding in school. I give thanks to God and thanks to RAIN for this mentoring program. Even if I attend college in Tillaberi, I will still benefit from Boulie’s advice whenever I come home for the holidays until I become a teacher. That is what I want to be when I grow up.”  

Your support gives Fatima and Boulie the courage to makes dreams come true. Thank you!

Boulie with her mentored students
Boulie with her mentored students

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Mentors in Arlit
Mentors in Arlit

This October, Bess visited a group of our mentors in Arlit to see how our mentoring programs were starting out in the new school year.

RAIN’s mentoring and scholarship program has succeeded beyond our hopes, in ways we never imagined.  Most of the women in this rural African region are illiterate, yet they come to school each week to encourage their girls to stay in school and to succeed. They teach traditional crafts, which offer future earning opportunities for the girls. The surprise was that the experience motivated the mentors to become literate.  In response, RAIN has offered bi-lingual literacy classes to the mentors, who are jumping in with flying colors.

How to make an education program self-sustaining? The mentors love the program; they readily agreed to earn, with RAIN’s help, money to buy their own materials for the craft classes. This is a nomadic region of herders.  The women told us that if RAIN bought them some starter goats, they would keep a herd to support the program and help them out, too. 

A year later, we find that the goats are thriving and multiplying. The women keep the female goats for milk and cheese for their families, and sell the males to generate money to pay for their practical skills materials.

Stories like these show us that with committed and motivated partners, education can be self-supporting! Education is a long-term goal --- we are committed to seeing these girls through school for as long as they can attend. 

It costs $2,500 to develop a cooperative enterprise, such as herding, with each group of 20 mentors.  That’s $125 to give six school girls a leg up and support 20 dedicated mentors. We call that a great return on a great investment!  We’re so grateful to be sharing these exciting success stories, which wouldn’t happen without you.

Mentors learning animal husbandry techniques
Mentors learning animal husbandry techniques
Practical skills give girls earning power.
Practical skills give girls earning power.
Mentors in class.
Mentors in class.
Mentors in Iferouane
Mentors in Iferouane

Last fall, RAIN set out on a mission to train 25 mentors in the villages of Iferouane, Ingui and Gougaram about the most common diseases in their communities, good hygiene practices, raising awareness among the students and their parents about disease prevention, and spotting signs of illness for treatment as a pilot project in health education.  We're happy to report that since the project began, big strides have been achieved in our partner communities! 

  • Mentors in all three communities are now able to recognize early symptoms and are referring students for treatment and following up with parents.
  • Parents are increasingly bringing their children for treatment at first signs of illness.
  • School attendance has increased 16%-18% from last year. Since health services for children have been provided free of charge, families use the system, so that a child who is ill can avoid missing school for long periods. 
  • Health and hygiene practices by the students have greatly improved.
  • Within six months, the project raised awareness about health issues for more than 2,000 people and provided free medical care to 700 nomadic students. 

These accomplishments are especially significant when compared to just a few years ago, when nearby conflict debilitated the local health and education systems. Beyond the benefits of prevention and care, this project has helped bring things back to normalcy. Health can be a major obstacle to children attending school - with your help, RAIN plans to continue the education and care of mentors, children and their families alike to clear the way for healthy and educated nomadic communities! 

Mentor Hawa with student in Iferouane
Mentor Hawa with student in Iferouane
Clinic with medicines in Gougaram
Clinic with medicines in Gougaram

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Organization Information

Rain for the Sahel and Sahara

Location: Portsmouth, New Hampshire - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.rain4sahara.org
Project Leader:
Whitney Fleming
Manager Communications & Projects
Portsmouth, NH United States

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