Left to their own devices

A woman collecting logs, NigerThe position of women in many rural regions of Niger is an unenviable one. Frequently women are left behind for months or years while men go off to graze herds or find work in towns and neighbouring countries.

This leaves the women in charge of all the farming, including planting, harvesting and milling of cereals. They have to carry out this heavy work along with all their domestic responsibilities, such as looking after children or elderly relatives.

In the past, women in Niger have received little help. International agencies are trying to change this by offering advice and training on drought-resistant crops and vegetables and methods of irrigation.


In the capital Niamey, soap-making is taught to women, so they have an independent means of making a living. Thanks to this new skill, one widow and mother of two now ensures her children have three meals a day and the uniform and materials they need for school.

Increasing harvests is especially important, since rural families often run out of supplies during the dry season. And since men may only send back money occasionally, women often find they cannot pay for food. If there are no wild leaves or fruits to gather, they have to resort to begging.

Organisations such as SOS Children offer training programmes to provide girls and women with skills to earn money, such as sewing or cloth-making. Hardworking and resourceful, women in Niger can support themselves and their families once they have the tools.