[Niamey, Niger] 17 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, 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 visited the Coalition des Organisations Nigériennes des Droits de l’Enfant (CONIDE). The team was warmly welcomed by the President of CONIDE, Mr. Sidikou Moussa, and the staff of the organisation.
WACSI team visits CONIDE in Niamey, Niger
During the visit, the two organisations discussed the debilitating context of the Sahel. The President of CONIDE asserted that the civic space environment in Niger has gotten worse. He cited a recent law passed early this year in the country that bars the creation of new NGOs unless they belong first to an association. He said ‘beyond just the new law, the state has also made it cumbersome for NGOs to acquire or renew their licenses. These new attempts at regulating NGOs apparently are made in the guise of security needs and international compliance with anti-terrorist financing and money laundering’.
WACSI team with President of CONIDE
The two organisations also discussed youth as an important demographic for the development and stability of the region. It was overwhelmingly acknowledged that there is need for a significant investment in the youth in the areas of civic engagement, policy advocacy and analysis and, coalition and solidarity building. Ms Balogun reiterated the need to be more deliberate in our effort to shape the mindsets of the youth to better protect and safeguard civic space and democracy in the region. Mr Sidikou, said ‘it is equally important to link civic development to youth entrepreneurial skills for self-reliance and to create more jobs. Because, an important reason for the lackadaisical attitude of the youth to the reality of closing civic space and deteriorating democratic space, for instance, is the fact that most youth are not gainfully employed, and are therefore susceptible to violent extremism, anti-democracy ideologies or outright apathy towards the ideals of democracy.
He went ahead to share an impressive programme where CONIDE trains young men and women on livelihood skills, and support their growth after their training. Some of these livelihood empowerment training areas included agriculture and livestock farming, block moulding, building and construction, catering–mostly in partnership with donor entities and government agencies.
In addition, the two partners reflected on their significant experience working on women rights and related issues in Niger, and acknowledged that there are still critical areas requiring efforts to scale up. Mr Sidikou said, “WACSI’s capacity building intervention for organisations and national networks working on ending child marriage has enhanced the organisation of women’s groups, and increased their numbers exponentially. However, as their numbers grow, so are their needs, especially in areas such as network building, advocacy, and stakeholder engagement”. There is also a need to scale the efforts to connect women’s organisation at the national level to the ones operating at the grassroots, to facilitate learning, exchanges, and strengthen the base of advocacy for national gender equality.
During the meeting, the WACSI team had the opportunity to learn about the impressive resource mobilisation and sustainability strategy of CONIDE that is worth sharing for others to emulate. With the support of donor and domestic resourcing effort, CONIDE acquired a huge office complex about 8 years ago. The office complex has been a source of income generation, and has enhanced the organisations’ financial resilience in an era of dwindling donor funding. In effort to further sustain the vision and mission of the organisation, CONIDE acquired a large farm land to produce foodstuffs used for catering services for all events held within its premises. ‘In the near future, part of the farmland would have buildings to serve as a training and retreat centre to host many trainees from across the country. This will save costs, and shore up the finances of the organisation’, says Mr. Sidokou.
WACSI team with the President of CONIDE, Sidikou Moussa at the organisation’s farm
Both organisations explored opportunities to further strengthen their collaboration, discussed areas of mutual interest and pertinent issues and challenges to tackle in Niger (and indeed, in the Sahel.) including enabling environment for civic operations, CSO legislations and regulatory compliance, youth capacity development in democratic governance, civic space, gender equality, social accountability, advocacy and coalition building.