"When I met Zeinabou she was not interested in school. Each morning she left her house, telling her parents she was going to school - but it was a lie. Now, thanks to my counseling, she has changed a lot. She likes school and enjoys learning to knit with me." - Fatimatou Silimane with her student Zeinabou Takar
Keeping at-risk girls succeeding in school.
The literacy rate for nomadic people in Niger is less than 15%, and is even lower for girls. Girls especially face cultural and financial obstacles to staying in school, such as early marriage and the need to help at home. Girls who do attend school have a hard time adjusting and often drop out after only three years. RAIN’s mentoring program offers solutions to these obstacles. Based on the long standing nomadic tradition of women educating their children, RAIN recruits local women to act as mentors, encouraging girls to succeed and advocating with their families and teachers. Walking miles to meet with their students, mentors counsel in life choices and teach valuable practical skills, committed to providing the new generation of girls the opportunities that they never had.
Over the years, mentored girls have consistently succeeded in greater numbers than their peers. Above, mentors in Artlit. At left, a girl learning practical skills.
"RAIN's mentoring program is very strong....the commitment of the mentors, who sometimes walk up to seven kilometers to meet with the girls, is remarkable." - Lisa Kays, Aurora Associates International, and Stephanie Psaki, AED.
Health education passed on from mentor to student.
At left, mentors in health education classes. Mentors receive training to recognize the early symptoms of the most common diseases, good hygiene practices, and gender issues such as early marraige and other family pressures. Mentors refer students for treatment and follow up with parents, who in turn are increasingly bringing their children for treatment when they are sick. If a student is absent, their mentor will visit their home to support their return to class.
Mentors + goats = program support. Our mentoring program has proven to be wildly successful in our partner communities. It takes twelve years for a child to complete high school. This brings us to the question: how can education programs become sustainable?
The mentors responded that with RAIN’s help, they would run businesses. The profits would provide them with payment for their mentoring services, and pay for the materials they use in traditional skills classes. So began a pilot program in mentor husbandry. Since 2006, mentor groups receive support and training to start their own herd of goats to generate income for their families and the mentoring program. At right, a mentor with her starter goat.
RAIN believes in fostering small enterprise for nomadic women to support their families and learn new skills. To further promote economic stability and resilience to crisis, groups of 20-40 mentors, along with women from the wider community, have been forming Savings & Loan Groups. Starting with a seed fund provided by RAIN, each member contributes a weekly small amount from which members take out monthly loans on a rotating basis. Funds may be used at the discrection of each member - to invest in her enterprise or purchase food or medical care for her family. Members learn the value of saving and basic accounting. At left, members of the "Ekasen-Tumouhoutar" (Relieving the Burden) S&L in Iferouane.
RAIN for the Sahel and Sahara is a nonprofit 501(c)3 working to make a lasting difference in Africa.