African Contemporary Politics : Economic enrichment and educational opportunities for African women

“If you thought I spoke a lot about women already, know that I am just getting started.”— Sahle-Work Zewde, Ethiopia’s 1st Elected Women President. 

Niger—Improving Education and Economic Opportunities for Women Through the Enforcement of Good Practices 

            Economic enrichment and educational opportunities for African women have multiplied in the last decade, however, it remains a challenge to attain sustainable change. Indeed, there is enormous work to achieve for legitimate enforcement of fruit bearing initiatives in communities of impoverished women in the continent especially for nomadic and rural demographics. The low political and economic value given to women, especially in Niger, West Africa, have proven to result in incontestable progress failure. The implementation of successful policies can be established from good practices and programs elaborated by international organizations, hence serving as a development basisfor Niger—continuously ranking at the bottom of both gender equality and human development indexes. Niger, among other under-developed countries, calls for urgent humanitarian actions to resolve one of the biggest philanthropic and economic challenges of our time. Whether it is through the aid of the World Bank, NGOs, government sponsored programs or other methods, it is time for Niger to lead constructive advancements and get on the right track for women to be integrated in society. 

            As it is constantly stated in contemporary development goals and studies, for a country to reach its optimum prosperity, it has to put its women’s share of the population on an equal status as its fellow men. Educated and empowered women constitute a tremendous value to the wealth of a nation and only when truly appreciated and immersed rightfully in society can this value be unlocked and savored. As it is formerly established that the root for a growing economy is an educated nation, Niger is ranked, behind Burkina Faso, its neighbor on the westside of its border, among the five least educated countries in the world—with literate men representing  27.3% against a low 11% for all Nigerien women.[1]The necessity for women autonomy, self-improvement and care is hence the lead goal to diminish and ultimately eradicate gender inequality, especially through means of educational and economic empowerment that would substantially reduce population growth—an enhancer of poverty. Delving deeper into demographic statistics procured by the United Nations, Niger’s population growth of about 4 percent per year averages one of the fastest growth in the world. At this rate, Niger is projected to at least triple its population, numbers that have been researched in concluding Africa’s estimation to double its population by 2050.[2]

  Furthermore, Niger is among a group of countries that tend to “feminize” poverty. It is also deeply embedded in the culture that large families should prevail and are signs of high social status but there isn’t enough financial means and food production to sustain this standard of living. This impediment fact is true for many reasons, one of which is that Niger has the highest total fertility rate (TFR) in the world, with an average of about 7 children per woman.[3]Moreover, Niger ranks first in child marriages and reproduction, with a percentage as high as 76% according to Girls Not Brides Organization. This continuous population growth decreases chances to escape poverty’s vicious circle caused by early marriages and childbirth, taking girls away from schools and hence an educated future.

            A government reform has been initiated in the Nigerien education system for a sustainable performance change referred to as the “the education & training sector plan for 2014-2024,” with an allocated grant of $84,200,000. This government led initiative is a token of goodwill by the government to prove its commitment to ensure a sustainable development with the help of the World Bank, the European Union and UNICEF as respectively grant agent and coordinating agencies. This is part of a larger program called the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) program that aims at increasing access to education

The World Bank has also participated in collaborations with the Nike Foundation and African governments for a project named Adolescent Girls Initiatives focusing in: “business development skills training, technical and vocational training targeting skills in high demand, as well as life-skills training.”[4]This project set the ultimate goal to offeradolescent girls with the adequate tools and knowledge necessary in order to gaineconomicvalue. Additionally, the International Monetary Fund is, too, actively conducting projects for the promotion of gender equality:  “eliminating gender inequality can lead to faster economic growth, a higher quality of life, and women’s economic and political empowerment”[5].

  On another side, Kristoff and Wudunn’s “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” provides examples of government investment strategies holding optimistic results, for instance the book mentions a Mexican anti-poverty program named Oportunidades. This program used a kind of “bribery” strategy to induce parents to keep their children in school and making sure they get all vital medical care among other things. By giving them a certain amount of money serving as an impetus motivation, the attendance of girls in schools has elevated greatly. Although these government funded programs have shown a positive linkage between girls education and economic development, they do however face challenges, predominantly the fact that each country can respond differently to similar initiatives but also governments do not all share the same wealth to invest in a similar hierarchy of priorities. Furthermore, not all economic aids are proven to be effective, resulting in disputes between scholars and economists. Corporations and NGOs from all over keep on sending money or material items in order to help fight poverty. These acts, although very honorable, make the locals dependent on the help when the real goal is to achieve a long-term sustainable development as we project ourselves in the future, such as creating jobs and educating a whole generation of women. In this way, another great way to boost a sustainable economy with an increasing women recognition is through micro-finance. 

            Additionally, to favor economic gains, Niger should consider other economic methods that would favor both women and the national economy such as encouraging local small businesses and craft works. For instance, through the pursuit of import-substitution industrialization strategies andtheir micro-finance businesses which:” encourage domestic entrepreneurs to manufacture product otherwise imported from abroad,”[6]costing a lot more money because of high tariff barriers.

            These NGOs and international organizations are creating substantial opportunities in the country and should further investigate the best ways to get involved with the government. By influencing policy making processes and building official partnerships to develop countrywide programs, the horizon of sustainable change for Nigerien women can be reached. Indeed, improving women’s status and opportunities within society, especially in rural nomadic communities, have a long and bulky road ahead but with the right promotion and programs it can be a reality. With risks of corruption, rejected help, cultural beliefs, options remain limited for a positive completion of the mission. A choice presents itself in either hiring local intermediaries to represent an organization’s interests or supporting existing local associations, yet still sending a few supervising officials on the grounds to ensure proper work and evaluate the success. Possibilities remain large but it is vital to prioritize factors such as the high population growth rate, young marriages and childbirths, school retention and completion rates among other things that impact greatly women’s standards of living. 


References and images

[1]Niger—CIA World Factbook, 2015.

[2]Niger: The 5 Things You Need to Know—Concern USA Organization, 2018.

[3]Niger—CIA World Factbook, 2016.

[4]Adolescent Girls Initiative.” The World Bank. September 2015.

[5]New IMF Study, Data Tool, Assess Fiscal Policies to Tackle Gender Inequality.” International Monetary Fund, 2016. 

[6]Spiegel,World Politics in a New Era, 365.

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Adolescent Girls Initiative.” The World Bank. September 2015. http://www.worldbank.org/en/programs/adolescent-girls-initiative

 Cago, Lanessa. “25 Most Illiterate Countries.” WorldAtlas, 20 Jan. 2016, www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-lowest-literacy-rates-in-the-world.html.

 Education in Niger.” Education in Niger | Global Partnership for Education, www.globalpartnership.org/country/niger.

“Gender Equality in West Africa: Actions Speak Louder than Words.” OECD Insights Blog, 8 Mar. 2017, oecdinsights.org/2017/03/08/gender-equality-in-west-africa/.

 “Gender Equality in Niger.” The Borgen Project, borgenproject.org/tag/gender-equality-in-niger/.

 “Human Development Reports.” | Human Development Reports, hdr.undp.org/en/composite/GII.

 “Improving Gender Equality in Africa.”World Bank, www.worldbank.org/en/region/afr/brief/improving-gender-equality-in-africa.

 Kristof, Nicholas D.and WuDunn, Sheryl, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009).

 Niger Population 2018.Niger Population 2018 (Demographics, Maps, Graphs), worldpopulationreview.com/countries/niger-population/.

 New IMF Study, Data Tool, Assess Fiscal Policies to Tackle Gender Inequality.” International Monetary Fund. 07/28/2016. https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2016/07/26/14/42/NA072816-New-IMF-Study-Data-Tool-Track-Fiscal-Policies

 Spiegel, Steven L.,World Politics in a New Era,6th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).

 “The World Factbook: NIGER.” Central Intelligence Agency, Centra Intelligence Agency, 17 Oct. 2018, www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ng.html.

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