Girls empowerment and intergenerational dialogue in South Niger

Strengthening girl’s capacity for independent monitoring and for spreading awareness within their communities

UNICEF is working in Maradi, Niger on several programmes of empowerment in collaboration with local actors to raise awareness and induce a change in the practice of early marriage. Within this context Visual Exchange was involved to hold a participatory workshop with young girls with the objective of capacity building and empowerment. The goal was to crystallize girls’ awareness and strengthen their position within the community as for them to continue the process of monitoring of early marriage within their villages after the end of the project and communicate further developments with UNICEF representatives through audio-visual materials.

PREPARING THE GROUND FOR A BOTTOM-UP PROCESS OF CHANGE

The objective for the group of girls participating in the participatory video is to generate a so-called oil strain effect. In other words, they seek to have an impact on the broader social dynamics associated to child marriage and on as many people as possible, such as religious authorities and parents that hold a high degree of influence in their children’s lives.
To be able to amplify their voices and spread new views within their communities while monitoring the developments of early marriage, they must acquire a higher degree of agency and influence vis à vis actors that hold traditionally more power in the social structure, needing thus to challenge the hierarchical relations of their communities and initiate a process of horizontal and vertical communication.
In this context the participatory video facilitates the process by providing a tool – the camera – that is an empowering instrument through which the young girls can mobilize their voices and channel the communication with parents, girls and traditional leaders.

“The participatory video allowed girls to identify which are the problems of the village and to identify the informants and key leaders that can influence. They have witnessed that is possible to ask questions. Before was unconceivable” - Salmey, Head of Program UNICEF NIger

The camera places temporary the users in a position of power from which they can interact with key personalities that were before unreachable due to social hierarchies and unequal power relations. In this way thus the participatory video mediates a new dynamic in which there is a break in traditional social roles between the girls and the elderly allowing for communication and help to begin new paths of dialogue outside the boundaries of rigid social and traditional barriers.

MOBILIZING VOICES, GENERATING EMPOWERMENT

The media tools of communication and their appropriation by the community can facilitate the process of social communication and monitoring. The appropriation of the tool and techniques by the girls leads to a feeling of stronger responsibility towards their peers and the overall community and to a sense of empowerment that comes from the fact that they feel to be important for other girls and their community.

“The video allows us to educate the community on what should and should not be.”- Bassira, Maradi participant
“I will sensibilize the members of communities and the ones going to school to keep staying in school because it is important and me I didn’t have the opportunity to go to school”.

The workshop with the participatory video has considerably facilitated this goal in generating a situation in which girls could experience and feel at ease in interrogating and expressing their points of view to elderly members of the community and their parents.

“Before I didn’t know at all how to tackle these issues but now with the training, I know how to address people. Here we learnt how to interrogate people and what questions to ask them.” – Idaya, Maradi participant

BREAKING THE BARRIER OF SILENCE

An important stage of the participatory video prosses is the cycle of screenings across communities. During these moments, girls, boys and parents have the opportunity to view their own representations and to discuss about the issues raised in the video. What emerges during the screenings in Maradi is an important consent over the fact that early marriage represents a practice that must be questioned and that poses major problems for young girls.

The collective debates generated at the screenings leads to a further crystallization of the arguments of early marriage and strengthens community’s awareness.

“We must understand the meaning of this awareness session for women and men so that we understand the meaning of life and how to live in community life.” – boy during screening

Furthermore, the video exposed girls’ ability for performance, their eagerness to learn and demonstrated that they can achieve important results if they commit to missions and life-paths other than the traditional ones assigned to women.

“The communities have seen these girls going and coming but without understanding what these girls were doing. They have never realised that the girls are able of realising such work. But now that they have seen the film, in addition to the important dialogues engaged in the community, they have understood that their girls are capable of performing” – Salmey, Head of Program UNICEF NIger

Partners:

UNICEF Niger, Government of Niger

Year:

2019 – 2020