Imagine: You are an ambitious fourth grade girl and the only person in your family who can read and write. You have a sister you love and look up to. Just a few years older, she already has children of her own. Your family lives in your ancestors’ beloved Sahara Desert. It’s not an easy life. Your father is away in search of work and your mother, who has few skills and no income, struggles. Then a local woman takes you under her wing. She encourages you and talks to you and your parents about the doors that education can open.
For the first time in the history of your family, you can choose: be the first girl in your community to graduate primary school, or get married like your sister did.
In rural Niger, a good education, like rain, is scarce - especially for girls:
Girls in our remote desert partner communities are at a disadvantage in several ways – their families suffer from poverty, illiteracy, a challenging environment, and few opportunities to support themselves. Early marriage contributes to poverty and overpopulation, creating an unending cycle of lost potential. Though the country is growing, without access to education and opportunities, the future appears bleak for nomadic people in Niger.
"An example of my work is that none of the girls I mentor have married early. Only after being expelled from school have parents married their girls. Parents let their children finish school." - Mentor Houdeyja Ramnan, Tatararat
RAIN’s Mentoring Program recruits local women volunteers as mentors to help at-risk girls stay and succeed in primary school despite cultural and economic pressures. Girls learn about health and hygiene, practical skills, and receive life guidance, forming strong bonds with their mentors and returning to school each year in numbers 20% greater than their peers. Over the last eight years, our mentoring program has enjoyed proven success. Today, over 160 women mentors support 600 + nomadic children in seventeen schools across the Agadez and Tillberi regions of Niger.
Investing in a girl's future is investing in the world's future. Girls that stay in school delay marriage, have fewer children and develop more durable livelihoods.
"Before the mentoring program came to our community, I did not want my daughter to attend school. I thought she should be at home to help me with domestic tasks and to keep our goats. After meetings with the RAIN mentors, I become more sensitized to the importance of bringing my daughter to school instead of having her stay at home. With the practical skills she has been learning, I now have confidence in my daughter, who is already starting to embroider. I can say that my daughter is thankful for the skills training and the counsel of the mentors, who now have a primary role in preparing her for the future." - Mother Fatimata Rhissa, Gougaram
RAIN is about mutual support between families and community members, and our mentoring program is the best example of this dynamic network. The artisanal craft skills girls learn from their mentors not only serve to make school more attractive to parents - they can boost the economic stability of a student's entire family. After mastering creation of items such as key chains, winnowing pans, purses or embroidered sheets, mentored students will often begin selling their products in local markets, saving some for their school expenses and contributing the rest to their families. They frequently pass on the skills they've learned to their family members, and parents ease up on their demands for their children to be at home. The student develops confidence and a sense of independence.
Lessons in cooking, nutrition and hygeine are also passed on to the girls' families. Parents gain new understanding about health issues - a major barrier for attendence - and bring their children in for treatment more often.
“I have learned a lot of things through my mentor. She talks with us about health, telling us to be sure to wash our hands before and after we eat and to wash our clothes regularly. She also helps us understand about education with examples about its importance. I share what I learn with my parents and with my friends.” - Safiatou Nilil, Lemdou
"It’s good to have a mentor, because we learn a lot of things. We learn about diseases, about the importance of education and the consequences of not getting an education. They also teach us crafts that our mothers have been doing for a long time. She also helps take care of us when we’re sick and tells the teacher why we are sick." - Mayala Mohamed, Lemdou
Rural and nomadic girls need all the help they can get to overcome cultural and economic obstacles to graduating primary school. Centuries-old norms that are prohibitive to a girl’s access to learning can give way to progress when parents become excited and proud of their daughter’s achievements.
Your support provides that help with a champion and friend they can turn to on their journey of becoming educated and empowered young women.
RAIN for the Sahel and Sahara is a nonprofit 501(c)3 working to make a lasting difference in Africa.