A Salute to the Indomitable Women of Niger By Ambassador Eric P. Whitaker

Statement on Presidential Elections in Niger

On Nigerien Women’s Day, May 13, we honor the daughters, sisters, mothers, wives, and grandmothers who contribute to a greater Niger. We admire their intelligence, strength, and resilience as they raise their families, build their communities, and improve their country.

This day, we also remember the Nigerien women who lost their lives as a result of violence, unsafe childbirth or inadequate medical treatment.  In partnership with our Nigerien colleagues, we resolve that these deaths must stop, along with reducing the staggering number of women and girls who lose opportunities each year due to lack of education or early marriage.

For this Women’s Day, we join our Nigerien partners in recommitting to women’s well-being, doing all that we can to help them lead healthy and productive lives.  We believe that, across the country, no young girl or woman should ever be denied any opportunity because of her gender, whether it’s access to health services, education, or the right to live in safety.  This is important not only for the individual women involved, but also for Niger as a nation so that their contributions can assist in building a strong and more prosperous country.

Through various U.S. Government programs, we are working with our partners to contribute to a more positive outlook for women in Niger.  The U.S. Agency for International Development invests $115 million each year promoting good governance and improvements in agriculture and food security, health, and education, including encouraging women’s literacy by persuading parents to make schooling a priority for their daughters.  Last year, we began the President’s Malaria Initiative, contributing $18 million annually towards malaria prevention and control.  In collaboration with the Government of Niger, we recently launched the $18.5 million Amplify Family Planning project to improve access to quality health services, including family planning, childhood disease prevention, and family wellness.

In 2018, we launched the Millennium Challenge Compact, a $437 million, five-year partnership with Niger to improve lives through better irrigation practices and expanded market access, particularly in the interior, where enhancement of women’s business skills and economic opportunity programs need more support.  Over the past year, this program has launched reforms that will improve access to water for crop and livestock production and access to important farming inputs such as fertilizer and veterinary services that will have a positive impact on the livelihoods of rural women and the households they manage.

Additionally, the Embassy sponsors many exchange programs for talented and bright women to travel to the United States, often a transformative experience.  The Young African Leadership Initiative for young adults, the Fulbright program for scholars and researchers, and the International Visitor Leadership Program for professionals allow women to study, meet with counterparts, and make lasting connections with Americans.

We have assisted hundreds of women entrepreneurs and journalists through training, promoted soccer and basketball for hundreds of girls and their coaches, and helped our exchange alumnae mentor and support the next generation of Nigerienne entrepreneurs through our “Pay It Forward” grant program.

All of our initiatives demonstrate our Embassy’s abiding commitment to Nigerien women and girls.  In the past decade, two Nigeriens, Major Aichatou Issaka Ousmane (2017), and Hadizatou Mani (2009), have won the annual Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage award for exemplifying exceptional leadership in advocating for human rights, women’s equality, and social progress.  That’s why we at the Embassy say, “Le Niger se Léve” as Nigerien woman become empowered to create a prosperous and flourishing Niger, since without women, no development is possible.

Today, on this Nigerien Women’s Day, let us acknowledge the women in our lives and commit ourselves to equipping them with the skills they need to reach their full potential.  Barka to all!