Niger: Hadjara - "Be the change you want to see"

An active youth campaigner in Niger’s Dosso region, 21-year-old Hadjara is known for her charisma, passion and and determination to promote and defend children’s rights. But now she has turned her attention to fighting a new aggressor and is at the forefront of the battle to rid Niger of the scourge of COVID-19.

An active youth campaigner in Niger’s Dosso region, 21-year-old Hadjara is known for her charisma, passion and and determination to promote and defend children’s rights. But now she has turned her attention to fighting a new aggressor and is at the forefront of the battle to rid Niger of the scourge of COVID-19.

The quarantine restrictions in place meant that university student Hadjara had to come up with an alternative method of making her voice heard, so she decided to use her phone to raise awareness through social media.

“All I need is my phone and some internet connectivity. I make short videos and images followed by text in French and local languages to teach my friends and communities on the new coronavirus because many of them do not believe the virus actually exist in Niger.”

Wanting to do more to help vulnerable children in her community, Hadjara came up with a plan which she proposed to other young activists in her network. “We each contributed 2,000 CFA francs (around 3 USD) making a total amount of 98,000 CFA france (169 USD), which we used to buy more than 150 protective masks and three boxes of soaps that we distributed to children and vulnerable adults in Dosso,” she explains.

Orphaned at a young age, Hadjara is lucky to be among the 24% of girls who are not married before their 18 birthday in Niger. She is also among the few girls who have been able to pursue her education beyond secondary school. "I am the last born of my parent’s children and have an elder brother and sister. I did not know my parents as they died when I was a baby. It was my grandmother who raised me until her death last year. Now I am living with an aunt."

The measures taken by the government to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have had a huge impact on communities in Niger, especially girls, as families place the additional burden of chores and care work onto their daughters. Hadjara agrees that she now has more chores to do, but she finds the time to invest in her small business.

“Though many activities have been put on hold in my community, aside being busy with the household chores, I make sure I do my oil business which consists of transforming peanut paste into cooking oil. That’s how I make money to take care of myself and care for children and people in need in my village.”

Hadjara learnt how to become a youth leader and inspire action for children’s and girls’ rights by taking part in Plan International’s Champions of Change programme. “Thanks to the training that I received from Plan International, I can express myself with confidence and conviction. Now I am bold in taking initiatives that will better children and young people’s lives." Hadjara says.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues in Niger, Plan International is responding across the country with the aim of reaching more than 100,000 people in vulnerable communities, including refugee and internally displaced persons camps. Our response includes delivering hygiene kits and life-saving information through door to door awareness raising and social media activities.

We are also collaborating with youth associations in remote communities to help us reach as many people as possible. Hadjara is an inspiration to young people across the country, and she has a message for them: “To my peers, please be the change you want to see.”

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