Rabi Abdou was born with a disability to a poor Nigerien family. Because of the social stigma attached to disabilities, Abdou never had the opportunity to go to school and begged on the street to earn a living.
But today, Abdou is an active participant in local affairs as a member of the Citizen Monitoring Committee (CVC) and a representative of the Association of People Living with Disability in Guidan Roumdji.
Abdou’s story is an example of how Jagoranci, Counterpart’s USAID-funded Resilient Governance Activity in Niger program, is ensuring that all local governance actors, including the most marginalized, have an opportunity to influence decisions about local development priorities in the 19 communes in which the program operates.
When Jagoranci supported the commune of Guidan Roumdji to set up local citizen participatory mechanisms, Abdou was chosen by local stakeholders to represent persons with disabilities within the CVC. Unable to read or write, Abdou attended the functional literacy center supported by Jagoranci. The center aims to ensure that all civil society and government officials have the basic skills and competences to effectively engage in local development.
As a result of the training, she is now able to read and write in Hausa, perform basic math and use her phone. Most importantly, she developed leadership skills and learned about the roles of civil society organizations in local development and how to articulate the priorities of women and persons with disabilities.
In October 2022, she participated in a multi-stakeholder forum on health, education, and water and sanitation in Guidan Roumdji. At the forum, she advocated, for the first time, to improve access to school for children living with disabilities and for conducting an awareness campaign to fight stigma against disabled children so that, unlike her, they could go to school.
Speaking of the impact of Jagoranci on her life, she said, “As I can now write and read, I participate more actively in CVC meetings and communal consultations. I have stopped begging on the street and have asked my husband to come back from Niamey where he was also begging. We are now looking for dignified work opportunities. As I’m no longer begging, I’m trying to gather resources so my twin daughters can go to school.”
Jagoranci’s gender and social inclusion advisor said, “I’m proud of how Rabi has emerged as a leader for CVC and persons with disabilities. She is now proposing initiatives to ensure persons with disabilities live in dignity.”
This is just one example of how engaging marginalized groups can have a profound impact on their lives and their communities. Imagine the possibilities if everyone, everywhere, had the same opportunity.
Read more about the Resilient Governance in Niger Activity here.