In Djama’s culture, a man will give a healthy girl’s parents at least ten cows when they marry. If the girl is beautiful, good-natured, and a hard worker, she could be worth as many as 25 cows!

When she was eleven, Djama’s father let it be known publicly that she was ready to be married. An older man from another village began negotiations with her father.  The bride price was settled and the engagement announced.

Djama told us, “The man was someone that I did not know and he already had three wives.  I was to be number four.  I didn’t like the idea, but in Niger, it is not the child who decides these things, it is the parents.”

Djama’s mother said, “We didn’t mean to cause her any harm.  It is quite common in our culture for girls to marry early.  We didn’t know how dangerous it could be for our daughter. 

 

When ADRA came to start work here, they gathered parents and teachers together from our community to have discussions about the dangers of early childhood marriage and the importance of education.   We learned that having a baby before the age of 18 is not safe for either the mother or the baby.  We also learned that when girls get an education, they tend to look after their parents better when they are older. 

Then ADRA built a school compound near our village with beautiful classrooms, toilets, and a good well. 

They gave the children everything that they needed to learn, like backpacks, textbooks, exercise books, pens and pencils, and a solar lamp so that they can study their lessons after dark! ADRA also worked with the teachers to help them improve their methods of teaching so that they could become better teachers!

ADRA has really changed the way our whole community now thinks about the importance of education and about early marriage for our girls. After meeting with our village elders and community leaders to discuss these issues, they have also started recommending that we keep our girls in school.” 

Djama said, “When all of this started happening, my parents decided to cancel the plans for my wedding.  First, I was accepted into a special speed school where I was able to learn the basics so I could catch up to other children my own age.  I am now in grade six and I am loving it!  It is my dream to finish here and go on to secondary school. Someday I wish to become a teacher myself!”

ADRA Canada is partnering with the Canadian Government through funding from Global Affairs Canada in a four-year project called BRIGHT. This project will increase access to quality education for girls and women in certain communities in Niger, Myanmar, and Sudan.  The communities were chosen because of their fragility due to remoteness, climate change, and post-conflict conditions.  This project will help many young girls like Djama realize a much brighter future!