The Niger Vocational Training Centre opened it’s doors on October 1st, 2010. We are located in the capital city of Niamey, Niger.
Niger is one of the least developed countries in the world. The 2010 United Nations Human Development rankings placed Niger 170 out of 172 countries worldwide in terms of overall development. In 2005 Niger was in the International spotlight for the drought and famine that crippled the country and again in 2010 there was a serious famine. But a lack of food isn’t the only problem facing Niger. There is extreme poverty, alarming rates of young marriage of girls as young as 12, rampant divorce, and high maternal and child death rates.
Our team in Niger, Africa is investing in girls, in their families and in their futures. We are investing in what is known as “the Girl Effect”.
The girl effect is the unique potential of millions of teenage girls around the world to end poverty for themselves, and the world. Girls living in poverty are uniquely capable of creating a better future. But when a girl reaches adolescence, she reaches a crossroads in her life. Some think of crossroads as places of opportunity. But if you’re female in the emerging world, puberty is the crux of a lifetime.
Education is the route to transformation. And we are not just talking about a typical school education either. An educated girl is more likely to earn greater income, raise a smaller family, have healthier children, participate in political processes, and send her own children to school. An educated girl also is less likely to become infected with HIV.
Investing in girls makes moral and economic sense. Giving them solid skills to earn a living helps them, their families and their children for the next generation. When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man. And when you invest in this girl in a wholistic sense, also focusing on health and hygiene, nutrition, sexual health , expressing themselves through their own ideas and thoughts, discussing religion, prayer and a sense of purpose, you help build a young woman who can stand the storm around her and make smart, educated decisions for her own life.
What are we doing in Niger?
We have opened a skills training centre where we focus on life skills as well as training in vocational skills. Our three year pilot program is focusing on girls at risk. We opened our doors with 60 girls in the beginning and have continued growing ever since. These girls, between the ages of 12 and 19, will be taught classes in sewing, embroidery, literacy, French language, math, basic business concepts and bookkeeping, health, nutrition, maternal and newborn health, sexuality and hygiene. We are also going to specifically have times when we look at their vision of a good and Godly woman, the type of women they want to become, and what we can do to achieve these goals and grow as a person and in self-esteem. These girls are culturally at high risk for early marriage, early childbirth, abuse and prostitution. Providing them with skills and knowledge will increase their own sense of self worth and capacity to make decisions for their own lives. It will also increase their value in the eyes of their families who will not marry them off as desperately.
At the end of the program they will earn their own sewing machine and write a National exam which will give them a certificate of completion for their skills. They will be able to go out with the new skills to make money. They will also be able to save money for their households by sewing and repairing their clothing and sewing together the traditional fabric roofs they use for their living structures. Another immediate result is to get these girls off the street in some cases and out of risk of early marriage and early childbirth for at least a few years. We are partnering with the parent of each girl that they will hold off on marriage until the program is complete so that the girl can continue to grow, learn and focus on this time of study.
We are also offering a new graduate level program whereby those young ladies who successfully completed our program and are not yet working with local tailors can come back for advanced level training, making and selling marketable items, and learning more in-depth adult tailoring skills. These young ladies return, many with their new babies, and continue the cycle of learning and mentoring.