Faced with desperate poverty in the predominantly Muslim country of Niger, women are now earning money for themselves in jobs outside the home, breaking with tradition. “Women have revolted,” said Guy Roget, a 42-year old mother of nine.
Two-thirds of the country is desert and Niger has not economically recovered from the drop in world prices of uranium, its principal export, in 1980. Compounding Niger’s crisis in export, foreign donors are withholding almost all support until Daouda Malam Wanke restores civilian rule.
Women such as Guy Roget have responded to this economic crisis by taking an active financial role in their families. Guy Roget helped to found a neighborhood women’s association whose members collectively contribute to a fund from which they can borrow startup money for small businesses. Zara Abdel Kader, secretary of CONGAFEN, an umbrella group of women’s organizations asserted that women’s growing economic role is beginning to give women more input in the decision-making concerning their families and communities. This has also caused a backlash in religious fundamentalism exemplified in Niger’s ratification of the UN Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Sexual Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which led to attacks on women for wearing Western clothing.