Rain for the Sahel and Sahara’s mentoring program is a huge success. The program focuses on empowering women to become community leaders, by building their skills and through income generating activities. Unlettered women become mentors to girls and at-risk boys—to help them stay in school and succeed there. This educational advocacy is extremely import as Niger, has high poverty, child marriage and illiteracy rates, especially among rural girls and women. Even moving forward one grade level can cause a dramatic change in a young girl’s life. Mentors provide support and impart skills to children through primary school and beyond. Mentors teach practical and traditional skills that can generate livelihoods as well as teaching students and mothers about health and hygiene, the value of education for girls and roles open to educated girls in their society.
The mentoring program’s goal is to create a self-sufficient program for these women. Dining for Women and One Day’s Wages have funded a two-step program for income generation for the mentors. Mentors have joined with other community women to create Saving & Loan groups in 11 communities while 8 mentor groups started goat herding programs this year. In areas with no access to banking, the value of saving is not appreciated. Seeing the small sums each woman contributes each week grow to sums that can support small enterprise initiatives is stunning. Through these activities the mentors and other women learn basic marketing and business skills. Nomadic and rural women in Niger have strong traditions of herding goats, though now most cannot afford to buy the starter animals. RAIN’s structured goat program provides each mentor with 3 young females and 1 male, along with supplemental feed and vaccinations. Within 3 – 4 years the animals have matured and multiplied to become an income-producing enterprise. In addition to sales of male goats, females provide milk and cheese for family consumption and sale. Mentors are at the heart of RAIN’s education programs. Once these income generating enterprise are established the participating members will be equipped with both the knowledge and incomes to elevate their living standards and allow them to continue mentoring without support from RAIN. This is the key to progressing to our goal of mentoring every child in need.