Empowering girls to lead independent lives in Zinder: the story of Firdaoussi
Thanks to the funding from Clé de Peau Beauté, UNICEF promotes the creation of new opportunities to develop the competencies of young people . By Linda Jonsson,
Amadou Cissé anI came to this training center because after I left school, I had nothing to do,” Firdaoussi says: “I saw that tailors can make a living if they take their work seriously.” As one of 13 children of one father, Firdaoussi understands the need to be serious and work for a living. Her mother has an unstable income, finding work in food preparation only during larger celebrations such as weddings and baptism, while her father, a builder, is no longer able to practice his trade due to challenges with his eyesight.
Firdaoussi’s father has dreams for his daughter. He hopes that one day she might become a magistrate, and he enrolled her in primary schools; however, the family was not able to sustain the fees, and Firdaoussi was forced to drop out of school after the 5thgrade. Now, with the training provided by the Arene Center, Firdaoussi is happy: “with my level, I can read, write and do calculations in French and Hausa, my mother tongue.”
This gives Firdaoussi a chance to change her reality. For many young men and women in Zinder, where 60% of young people age 13 to 16 are out of school, the risk of being recruited into or form gangs is large. This puts them into conflict with the law through acts of violence, the consumption of drugs and alcohol, and being victims of prostitution. Many girls become pregnant outside of marriage, creating a cycle of poverty. The alternatives for young people are few, necessitating the creation of a center like Arene. The center is training 120 young girls in catering, hairdressing, tailoring and the manufacture of cosmetics. This gives them the opportunity to create their own enterprises and become independent
Firdaoussi was able to spot an opportunity when she enrolled in the center: “I originally opted for sewing, but when the sector was opened up, I changed to hairdressing, as the market for sewing is saturated. In my neighborhood, there is no salon at the moment, so I’m certain I will have lots of customers.” She also recounts how she always used to braid the hair of the smaller girls in her neighborhood; the center is now providing her an opportunity to turn her passion into a profession.
Her parents have given her the support she needs to be able to attend the trainings provided, her mother accompanying her to the center to learn about the programme and enroll her daughter. The training is free for girls from vulnerable backgrounds like Firdaoussi’s, making it possible for her to attend. Firdaoussi is keen to use her knowledge and skills to improve not only her own situation, but also that of her family: “With my income, I will do everything that my little brothers and sisters can go to school and be able to have the chance that I didn’t have to complete their education”.
The Arene Center for Training, created in 2013, trains girls from underprivileged backgrounds in various trades, giving them practical skills to empower them economically. The girls are also given basic numeracy and literacy courses to further reinforce this. Thanks to the funding from Clé de Peau Beauté, UNICEF supports Arene with capacity building of the trainers as well as the necessary teaching and learning materials. Under this partnership, 120 girls will be trained in promising professions and provided with a start-up kit. The center is supervised by the Ministry for Youth and Sports.