Seventy-eight per cent (78%) of girls in Niger get married before their 18th birthday. This makes Niger the country with the highest prevalence of child marriage in the world. It is therefore against this backdrop that the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) under its women and youth development thematic focus commenced the capacity building of civil society organisations and coalitions working to end child marriage practise in six (6) West Africa countries namely, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. The project which is supported by Ford Foundation and implemented in partnership with Girls-Not-Brides (GNB) climaxed the capacity building with a four-day workshop for selected CSOs in Niger representing Care International-Niger, WilDAF-Niger, Coalition des Organisations Nigériennes des Droits de l’Enfant (CONIDE), and Girls First Fund (GFF) from 25-29 November.
During the training, participants took part in various break-out sessions to brainstorm on key issues like advocacy strategies, resource mobilisation and stakeholder mapping. In a session facilitated by Ms Omolara Balogun, Head of Policy Influence and Advocacy of WACSI, participants discussed in details the multi-faceted nature of child marriage in Niger, including drivers, challenges and consequences per region. She explained that some major causes of child marriage include: social and gender norms, poverty and absence of economic opportunities.
She also exposed participants to different advocacy methods and strategies to engage policymakers to increase political will to uphold the rights of children and protect the girl child from the scourge of child marriage.
On the third day, Ms Nana Ekua Awotwi, Executive Assistant, WACSI, and Balkissa Harouna Brah, National Coordinator, GFF-Niger, facilitated a session on the coalitions can monitor and evaluate their advocacy efforts in a bid to measure impact and track positive changes being, made as a result of their interventions. The pair explained that effective monitoring and evaluation involves careful planning and is an integral part of the design of an advocacy initiative.
Ms Awotwi also facilitated the session on resource mobilisation for CSO sustainability, where she introduced WACSI’S Guidebook Alternative Funding Models and explained how the guidebook suggests and exemplifies alternative sources of funding for CSOs.
Through experience-sharing by the various child marriage coalitions present, participants learnt about networking and coalition-building; including the management and sustainability of a coalition. At the end of the training, participants expressed their satisfaction with the content, delivery methods and the knowledge acquired. Speaking with Mr Alassane Aboubacar, Association des Jeunes pour le Développement Local (AJDL) he stated, that “it was a pleasure, not only to have worked with you at this workshop but also and above all to have been equipped with the strategies of advocacy.”
Many others vowed to use their newly-acquired and strengthened skills in their child marriage advocacy strategies. Though the current support for WACSI’s work on child marriage project is winding up in
2019, nonetheless the institutes promises to remain open to providing capacity strengthening support for the civil society coalitions working to end child marriage practise in Niger and across West Africa.