In Niger, new technologies reduce daily labor burden for rural women

Date: Saturday, January 30, 2016

Similar to many developing countries, the burden of time allocated to unpaid care work weighs heavily on rural women in Niger. Most of the reproductive activities are carried out by women and girls and to a lesser extent by men and boys. Women and girls also play a major role in productive and community management activities. The gender roles analysis shows that women still bear the brunt of the household chores such as fetching of fuel wood and water, food acquisition and preparation, childcare and taking care of the ill. This division of labor is perpetuated through generation. Some gender experts even opine that this traditional division leads to the growing poverty of rural women, their increased poor health and malnutrition and their lack of political participation and leadership in their communities.  

UN Women Niger through the joint programme “Rural Women Economic Empowerment (RWEE)” collaborates with FAO, WFP, IFAD, the government and the civil society to accelerate progress towards the economic empowerment of over 25,000 rural women.  UN Women installed 10 multipurpose time-saving equipment in 7 villages of the Dosso and Maradi regions. This initiative is accompanied by sensitization activities targeting women and men on their rights and roles in the development of their communities. Over 500 women and 300 men have attended the sensitization meetings organized by the implementing partners. According to Béatrice Eyong, UN Women Programme Coordinator in Niger “Involving both men and women resulted in facilitating our work with rural women in Niger.” 

Before the equipment was installed, a feasibility study was carried out in each of the seven villages to identify concretely the population’s needs, the technical and financial feasibility of installing the multipurpose units. At the end of the study, a meeting was organized with the entire community to share the outcomes. “The restitution is an important stage as it enabled UN Women to take a well-informed decision in the Tajae Fulani village where WFP had previously installed a platform”, added Ms. Eyong.

Another key component of the project is the training of 210 young and older women not only on how to operate the machines but also on how to carry out minor repairs when the machines do not work as expected. Today, the multifunctional units serve over 1,000 women in the seven villages. A number of positive impacts have been noticed in villages where the processing units are operational. Women reported that, using the grinding mills and threshing machines have helped them gain significant time, which they in turn invest in improving childcare, learning new trades, diversifying their economic activities and improving their personal and family hygiene.  Even men testified that the use of new technologies have fostered families to have healthier eating habits as the meals are ready earlier than in the past.  In the village of Detagui Yamba, women who could not financially afford to pay for their grinding or threshing were allowed to pay with their millet or other cereals. The cereals would then be sold by the women operating the units to ensure sustainability.

Moreover, running the equipment as a community has brought solidarity amongst the different social groups in the villages. Due to the economic and social development ignited by the multipurpose units in several communities, traditional and religious leaders are actively advocating to local authorities for a more serious consideration of women’s issues. While appreciating UN Women’s commitment, the women pointed out that the processing units could be even more beneficial if they were coupled with technologies aiming at reducing the time and burden involved in fetching water, fuel and wood.

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  • Alioune Diagne