THEME 3: THE STATUS OF WOMEN
Each video capsule consists of an interview with a member of the Zinder Brain Trust about a specific theme, intercut with extracts from the film which illustrate this theme. Each one is just 10minutes long, the idea being that within a one hour class or group session, one or two themes can be treated, even if the whole film has not been seen by everyone. At the bottom of this page, you will find links to additional resources, a list of possible questions to stimulate discussion and a suggestion for individual and group activities.
Although this film focusses principally upon male gang members, we are also introduced to a number of female residents of Kara-Kara – Siniya’s pregnant companion, the ‘free women’ of Tudan James, the teenage girl who was smuggled from Nigeria and forced into prostitution, and the hermaphrodite Ramsess. There are also a number of women who are less visible but nevertheless present – Ramsess’ mother and sisters, the anonymous women carrying baskets on their heads in the opening street scenes, the victims of rape evoked by Bawoo (but not seen) and, somewhat by contrast, the apparently wealthy woman travelling in the back of Bawoo’s taxi. The secondary but indelible presence of these women immediately raises questions about the role and rights of women in Nigerien society.
Certain key statistics paint an alarming picture. According to UNICEF, 76% of girls are married by their families before the age of 18 years old, of which 28% are younger than 15 years old. The fecundity rate is 7.2 children per woman. These two factors mean that the vast majority of young Nigerien women are married and have several children in their care before even attaining adulthood, thereby cutting short their formal education. Furthermore, because it is anticipated that women will not be joining the workforce but will be at home raising children while their husbands cater for the household’s financial needs, many families elect not to send girls to school at all, perceiving it as a waste of time. In fact, according to UNESCO, just 20.7% of Nigerien girls receive a secondary education. International institutions have formally recognized that child marriage and gender inequality are ‘hindering the country’s development’ (UNICEF ‘Building Resilience in Niger’).
In an attempt to address the obstacles to female education, the Nigerien government recently announced an initiative to establish boarding schools at the expense of the State. The initiative has met with a mixed response from the population, some of whom applaud the opportunity being offered to their children and others who resent this incursion on traditional family structures and established cultural morés.
One woman who has been outspoken on the issue of female education is the slam-poet Nourrath la Deboslam. In this interview, which addresses the status of women in Niger, she asserts that such young girls need to be protected from early marriage and encouraged to complete their education.