From woman to superwoman: the journey of Hadjo, an activist in Niger

“Thanks to CARE, my unforgettable school”

By Elizabeth Adéwalé, CARE Niger.

She is one of the most politically active women in Niger, a woman who enjoys great popularity for her commitment to her community’s most vulnerable people and to a job well done. But it wasn't always like that for Hadjo Djibo.

When the mother of two from the village of Hamdallaye, about 30km from the capital Niamey, lost her husband, her situation was dire. “I didn’t know how to support myself and my children. It was the most difficult moment of my life,” she recalls.

Hadjo with some women of the community at the grinding machine. Credit: Elizabeth Adewale/CARE 

Through word of mouth, Hadjo heard about the work of Mata Masu Dubara, a Village Savings and Loan (VSL) group established by CARE. The group was setting up a literacy center for its members in Hadjo’s village and needed a trainer.  As one of the few women in her community who had been to school, Hadjo applied and got the job. The new position was a perfect fit: Hadjo had long been of help to women in her community, assisting them with reading, calculating, and dialing numbers so that they could contact their family members by phone.

Hadjo threw herself into her work with the VSL group with great enthusiasm, becoming a student herself. With training in income generating activities from CARE, she managed to stabilize her financial situation. In addition to making soaps and perfumes popular with local buyers, “I learned to fatten my cows for both milk and meat, which I sell,” she says. “I also have a small peanut farm that allows me to make oil and peanut cakes that I sell on the local market.”

Hadjo signed up for as many trainings with CARE as she could, including courses in leadership and public speaking. With her financial position in better shape, she then took a bold step in a very new direction, running for a position in her local commune (district).

“After discussing with my VSL women, they gave me their support,” says Hadjo. The women of her community voted wholeheartedly for Hadjo, helping her succeed in a role that has enabled her to fight for their needs and their voices to be heard.

“I’m now the president of the commune’s Social Affairs Committee which plans for communal development, and I can make sure gender is taken into consideration while developing our plans,” she says.

Hadjo’s energy and enthusiasm are well known throughout the commune, and she is widely respected for her work. Hadjo regularly visits villages and asks women their needs which she then advocates during council meetings and directly to the mayor.

One such need was grinding machines for pounding millet and maize. Household chores such as these have traditionally been done by young girls, often preventing them from attending school.

"I raised funds to buy eight grinding machine in 2014. The council now budgets for the purchase of three grinding machines per year," says Hadjo. “women are now generating more income for themselves and are better able to meet their needs.”

After visiting a village and finding people drinking poor quality water from a severely damaged well, Hadjo took a sample of the water and showed it to the mayor. He took immediate action to repair the well. The commune has now made clean drinking water a priority for all its villagers. “Thanks to God no community now has to travel more than one or two kilometers to look for drinking water," says Hadjo proudly.

While Hadjo rejoices in her achievements, she feels there is still a great deal left to be done. “All these successes were through the training I received from CARE. Thanks so much to CARE, my unforgettable school,” she says. « But out of fourteen councilors in our commune, we are only two women. If I had one wish, it would be to see more women councilors.

Read more about CARE's work in Niger here.