Consultations with Civil Society in Niger – A courtesy visit to CARE Niger

Consultations with Civil Society in Niger – A courtesy visit to CARE Niger

[Niamey, Niger] 18 March 2022 — The West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) concluded a successful 3-day capacity building training for young civil society actors on effective advocacy for open civic space and civic engagement in Niger. While in Niger, the WACSI team including Omolara Balogun, Head, Policy Influencing and Advocacy Unit and John Frinjuah, Programme Officer, Policy Influencing and Advocacy Unit of the institute as part of their CSO consultations paid a courtesy call on CARE Niger. The team was warmly welcomed by the Country Director, for CARE Niger and CARE Burkina Faso, Mr. Yawo Douvon, and the staff of the organisation.

WACSI team received by Mr. Yawo Douvon (middle), Country Director, CARE Niger

 

The visit provided the opportunity for the WACSI team to apprise the leadership of CARE Niger about WACSI’s mission in Niger and to discuss mutual areas of interest, as well as explore further ways to strengthen collaboration between the two organisations in Niger and the greater Sahel region. During the meeting, Ms. Omolara reiterated the mission of the team in Niger which is to strengthen the capacity of young women and men drawn from across the Sahel on civic space, civic engagement, policy advocacy, and democratic consolidation. She highlighted the palpable passion of the youth and stressed on the need for them to be supported as they chart new paths in support of democratic ideals and an enabled environment.

The two institutions also revelled in their long-standing partnership and collaboration over the years. Speaking about the existing partnership with CARE, particularly policy research around women’s financial inclusion and advocacy to support the Village Savings and Loans Associations (VLSAs) model of grassroot women financial integration,  Ms. Balogun, mentioned that “it is no coincidence that the two organisations are concluding another partnership agreement aimed to amplify the unified voices of women on gender equality through the ‘Collective Action Lab’ programme to empower women across the Sahel – a testament to the positive working relations between the two organisations over the years”.

Mr. Douvon on his part lauded CARE’s work on supporting young women and girls, strengthening various platforms and coalitions, building their capacity, and inspiring young women and girls to respond to the menace of child and forced marriage; he particularly recognised WACSI’s collaborative role in the fight to end child marriage through policy advocacy and national network strengthening processes in recent years. He said, “CARE has built a powerful platform that have over 29,000 VSLAs in Niger alone”. However, there are more opportunities for partners to build and strengthen further the platforms, especially around financial inclusion by connecting them to financial institutions and through digital and technological inclusion. “Indeed, women in the Sahel have a lot of ambition, but the challenge has always been the limited capacity for individual partners to support them. Therefore, a deliberate effort and partnership remain critical to the ability to make impact in the lives of many women and girls in the Sahel”, Mr Douvon re-echoed.

WACSI team discusses existing partnership and opportunities for further collaboration with CARE Niger

 

Newly introduced CSOs registration criteria in Niger

Beyond the regular partnership with CARE Niger, Ms. Balogun stated that, WACSI is equally interested in key policy issues that affect civil society development effectiveness and development ecosystem in general, including the recent government’s decree which makes it difficult for civil society organisations to register as legal entities unless they first belong to or operate as an association for an unspecified period – all apparently under the guise of anti-money laundering and terrorist financing compliance. She said, “With WACSI’s experience on civil society regulations and legislations in other jurisdiction particularly Ghana, the institute is well placed to bring to bear its experiences for CSOs in Niger to explore how to respond to the government decree”. Mr. Douvon, also expressed CARE’s concern by this development and enjoined other organisations in the sector and region to explore ways to respond effectively.

An important aspect of the meeting was to discuss organisational strategy and mutual areas of collaboration. Mr. Douvon noted that CARE is currently working on a CARE Vision 2030 strategy to replace one which expired in 2020. The Country Office would adapt the global strategy expected to be completed in April this year to finanlise its own strategy. The strategy would focus on food security, gender justice, democratic justice, and humanitarian action. More precisely, “it would focus on the so called ‘triple nexus’ – development, humanitarian action, and peace”, Mr. Douvon noted. Ms. Balogun on her part noted that WACSI has also initiated a process to develop its new strategic plan (2023-2027). Among many other broad areas in the plan that will reflect the needs and aspirations of civil society across the region, it would also deliberately establish a footprint for the institute in the Sahel.

Despite the success in Niger, over the years by CARE and its partners including WACSI, continue to face enormous challenges. A huge challenge has been the limited financial capacity to respond to the growing needs of women and girls, youth and their platforms. It has been challenging to scale up broader impact. Further, the economic challenges of the nation continue to place a greater impact on the youth, many of whom are unemployed. Although CARE and a few partners are providing some support through alternative income generation programme, the resources are limited, and this is where stronger partnerships are crucial to leverage collective resources to deliver on expectations.

 

Furthermore, civil society in Niger and the Sahel region are engaging under an increasingly challenging security environment. A major outcome of this challenge is the internal displacements caused by conflicts and terrorist activities. Women and children continue to be susceptible to needless killing, even on their farms. And when displaced, women and children move in with families other than their own and often are faced with gender violence and sexual abuse.

Omolara Balogun, Head, Policy Influencing and Advocacy Unit, WACSI

The meeting concluded with Ms. Omolara assuring the CARE team of WACSI’s openness to explore ways to support women groups in their drive to intensify advocacy for gender equality, and strengthen VLSA platforms for broader financial inclusion; as well as enhance their capacity to collect and analyse evidence for policy advocacy. She also reiterated WACSI’s commitment to an ongoing partnership with CARE on ‘Collective Action Lab’ project, which among other objectives seeks to bridge the widening gap between grassroots women’s organisations and national level organisations; as well as increase the former’s access to decision making corridors.

 

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FIIFI BOATENG

Fiifi is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Communications and Information Officer at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. He joined the Institute in December 2020.

NANCY KANKAM KUSI

Nancy is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Programme Officer in the Knowledge Management unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. She joined the Institute in January 2021.

AGNES ADWOA ANIMA

Agnes is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Head of the Administration unit in the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2021.

DORIS ODEI

Doris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social sciences (Economics and Sociology) from the University of Cape Coast. She is passionate about impacting young lives hence co-founded Impart Foundation. A non-profit organization which seeks to empower young lives through education, technology and entrepreneurship.

PRINCE AKOWUAH

Prince Akowuah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Assistant in the Translation Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.

MAXWELL APENTENG

Maxwell Apenteng is a Ghanaian and joined WACSI in September 2010. He provides gardening and janitorial services at the Institute.

GEORGE ADU-MINTAH

George Adu-Mintah is a Ghanaian and currently the Protocol Assistant/Driver at the West Africa Civil Society (WACSI). He joined the Institute in October 2006.

IBRAHIM KWAKU GBADAGO

Ibrahim Kwaku Gbadago is a Ghanaian. He joined the Institute in 2008 and provides janitorial services and assisting the institute's errands. Before joining the Institute, he worked at the Palestinian embassy in Accra, Ghana.

RUTH YAKANA

Ruth Yakana is from Cameroon and currently the Receptionist at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.

BETHEL KWAME BOATENG

Bethel is a Ghanaian. He provides technical and IT related support to the Institute. He joined the Institute in October 2006.

WHITNAY SEGNONNA

Whitnay Segnonna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Management from the University of Benin. With 2 years of experience, she has a strong knowledge of organizational and project management. Combined with her bilingualism, she is very passionate about her work. She joined WACSI as Project Assistant on Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for the Capacity Development Unit.

STELLA YAWA WOWOUI

Stella Yawa Wowoui holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Translation Studies. She has a perfect grasp of both French and English, as well as an intermediate level in Spanish. She is currently working as a Project Assistant on the Techsoup Project.

KWAME ASANTE

Kwame is an experienced IT Consultant/Software Developer. He is skilled in Web Applications Development, Digital Security, Database Management, Digital Marketing and Brand Management. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology and is a Microsoft Programme Alumni. He is currently serving as a Marketing and IT Officer on the Techsoup Project.

GRACE AKPENE ZIGGAH

Grace Akpene Ziggah is a Togolese and currently the Logistics Officer and also assists in administration duties at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in June 2009.

LILLIAN DAFEAMEKPOR

Lilian Dafeamekpor is a Ghanaian and currently the Assistant to the Executive Director at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.

JOHN P. FRINJUAH

John P. Frinjuah has expertise and interests in civil society, international development, democracy and governance, conflict, crisis, and security. He has extensive experience working with civil society and international development organizations where he supported and managed research, programmes, and provided technical assistance on a variety of themes around public policy, governance, and development. He is an alumnus of the University of Ghana and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - Tufts University in the United States, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from two institutions respectively. John speaks English, French and several Ghanaian and regional West Africa languages.

GERVIN CHANASE

Gervin has extensive international development experience, including 5 years of policy advocacy and capacity building of grass root organisations. He has implemented over the years a combination of agriculture value chain, livelihood, food security and governance and rights programmes.
Prior to joining WACSI, Gervin worked on two USAID projects focusing on agriculture value chain development and governance in northern Ghana
Gervin holds a master’s degree in development & Governance from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany as well as a Masters in Global Studies from the Universities of Vienna (Austria), Leipzig (Germany) and California (Santa Barbara), USA. He is passionate social justice and inclusion.

LEANDRE BANON

Leandre Banon, Beninese, joined WACSI in September 2014 as Capacity Development Programme Assistant. Since then, he has worked in various units within the Institute to support operational and institutional capacity strengthening programmes for civil society in the region. Currently serving as Capacity Development Programme Officer at WACSI, his main responsibilities involve designing, planning, implementing and monitoring capacity development programmes for civil society constituents and grouping across the West Africa. Leandre is a certified Change the Game Academy Programme Trainer. His background lies in the areas of economics and development planning.

SAMUEL APPIAH

Samuel Appiah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Officer in the Finance and Administrative Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in May, 2016.

JIMM CHICK FOMUNJONG

Jimm Chick Fomunjong, Cameroonian, joined WACSI in May 2018 as the Head of the Knowledge Management and Communication Units of the Institute. He has over ten years’ experience as a journalist and a development communications expert. He has a vast experience in supporting African organisations to strengthen their internal and external communications, building and sustaining relationships with the media and, leveraging on the power of social media to promote their mission. He is also excellent at supporting organisations to set up and operationalise functional communications and knowledge management systems. He has a deep passion and expertise in supporting Africans and African civil society organisations to document their praxis, share and learn from experiences documented from the African civil society sector.

FRANCK A. SOMBO

Franck Sombo is a development practitioner with the drive to lead self and others to influence productivity and efficiency. His work involves supporting organisations to develop strategic plans, design monitoring and evaluation systems, develop and use relevant performance measurement tools to track progress, assess organizational growth and institutionalise learning. Franck has eight years of experience working with WACSI where he currently serves as the Head, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning. His academic qualifications include Masters in Organisations’ and Projects’ Management, and in Business Sciences and a High National Diploma in Finance and Accounting.

Franck is a Fellow of the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) and a graduate of the Graduate Training Institute (GTI) - Ghana with specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Leadership. He has a rich experience in Project Management, Capacity Development, Strategic planning, Data Analytics, Monitoring and Evaluation, Training and Facilitation, Mentoring and Coaching among others.

OMOLARA T. BALOGUN

Omolara is a development practitioner and advocacy strategist with over 10 years progressive experience in development programming targeted at strengthening civil society in West Africa. She joined WACSI in November 2009 as an Advocacy Consultant. And later became the first Policy Advocacy Officer in 2010 and Head of Policy Influencing and Advocacy unit in 2015. As head, she offers strategic direction to the institutes’ ambitions to connect and convene groups of organized and organic civil society actors; and influence regional and global discourses on crosscutting policy issues including—civil society regulations, sustainable development goals, civic space and enabling environment, aid effectiveness, gender equality.


Previously, Omolara served as a Service Development Marshal at TVQ Consulting Group, a customer service firm focused on designing strategic customer relationship and business growth plans for private and public financial institutions in Nigeria. She also served as a Programmes Associate with the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa where she teamed up to design and implement two programmes on—multidimensional peace support operations and gender mainstreaming in security sector reform in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

KWABENA KRODUAH

Kwabena Kroduah is a Ghanaian and currently heads the Finance Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in January 2008.

CHARLES KOJO VANDYCK

Charles currently serves as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Charles has over 10 years of experience working in international development and social justice issues in Africa. Charles has expertise in strengthening civil society and public agencies including the design and implementation of governance and leadership programmes, development of knowledge pieces and policy advice. Charles was the founding Board Chair of Innovation for Change (i4C)-Hub Afrique, as well as the founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), an initiative of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. Charles currently serves as the Member of the Governing Board (Coordination Collective) of Africans Rising. He is a Member of the Development Studies Association, United Kingdom. Charles is a 2017 Stanford University Fellow for Nonprofit Leaders and a certified Change the Game Resource Mobilisation Trainer.

NANA ASANTEWA AFADZINU

Nana Afadzinu is a Ghanaian and currently serves as the Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2010.