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Tuesday May 22, 2007
Recently Boston University students Magali Carette and Sarah Garton spent some time with Habsou Aboubacar, who runs Tin-Hinan, a non-governmental organization supported in part by Friends of Niger.
Sarah sent us the following report, along with a few pictures, after their stay in Niger.
Date: Sun, 22 Apr 2007 11:42:39 -0400
For one week in March, we had the fantastic opportunity to live and learn with a Nigerien family in Niamey through a study abroad program with Boston University. Eating and sleeping in their home, we were exposed to various aspects of urban Tuareg life. Habsou Aboubacar, the wife and mother and head of the family, is an incredible personality active in the Tuareg community working with social consciousness issues facing marginalized communities today in Niger.
Throughout this week we were also introduced to Habsou's non-governmental organization Tin-Hinan. The Tin-Hinan Atelier, a Women's working cooperative, is located just down the street from Habsou's home in the neighbourhood of Koura Kano. Two years ago on this lot, Tin-Hinan began working with a group of now 21 women. The name, according to folktale, is that of the strong matriarch from which all Tuareg peoples originate. At this workshop, the women make all sorts of crafts for sale and by request: tie-dye, embroidery and sewing. The organization also provides the women an opportunity to learn how to read and write through daily lessons led by the group's managers. This means a lot in Niger where 84.7 percent of the women have never attended school, according to the 2005 World Bank report. While they work, the women are allowed to bring in and care for their small children. They can nurse and tend to them as they need to. The organization also offers information sessions about women's rights and personal health and hygiene with a focus on maternal care.
Although Habsou is an activist working with the United Nations with Indigenous Peoples' Rights, particularly the nomads and Tuaregs of the region, Tin-Hinan serves women from all of Niger's various ethnic populations. Having learned of Tin-Hinan by word of mouth, the women come from all over Niamey to work.
We were able to visit the atelier several times during our stay with Habsou. The building has one large workroom, where all the women work around a large table. It's a social atmosphere, where the women exchange ideas and work together on the same projects and also helping one another tend to the children around them. Along one wall is a large chalkboard, where we could see their last lessons. We learned a variety of embroidery stitches, helped sew dresses for tailoring and assisted with the tie-dying process in the hot midday sun. A lot of work!
Tin-Hinan is more than this atelier. The founding members were eleven concerned Nigerien citizens: Habsou, doctors, judges and others. Their latest project is a women's micro-credit association in the village of Goroubi in the Tillabery Region. They have outside sources of funding for this, but the group also offers unfunded awareness sessions to the women they serve since they are already there. As of right now they are working with forty women and hope to double that number.
Even though there are lots of women's rights groups organizing in Niger, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. Tin-Hinan is one example of women actively working together to help change their status in society, and allows them to make their own opportunities. With these skills, both business and academic, they could start their own projects and enterprises. Tin-Hinan, a young organization, is full of ambitious projects yet lacks the funding to put them into effect. Hopefully, with increased recognition within and outside Niger, they will be able to find the funding necessary to continue to grow. Thanks, Habsou and all the great people that we met at the atelier for showing us all the great things they do.
To find out more about Tin-Hinan, you can contact Habsou at firstname.lastname@example.org or locally 96-88-42-04.
- Mangu and Goro