Having Girls’ Boarding Schools “effective” in Addressing Forced Marriages: Priest in Niger

Credit: Agenzia Fides

A Catholic missionary Priest in Niger has lauded the establishment of boarding schools for girls in the country’s capital city, Niamey, saying the institutions are an effective means of addressing the challenge of forced marriages in the West African nation.

In a Tuesday, June 14 report by the information service of Propaganda Fide, Agenzia Fides, Fr. Marco Prada makes reference to “the French high school in Niamey, as well as many other high schools in the Nigerien capital” that have boarding facilities for girls.

The French high school in Niamey, Fr. Prada has been quoted as saying in a note to Agenzia Fides, “is an effective means to eliminate early and forced marriages, and to spread family planning, freely chosen by the couple, and not imposed by tradition.”

The member of the Society of African Missions (SMA) says that the French high school “initiative offers a hundred girls, born in poor and disadvantaged families, especially in the interior of the country, the opportunity to enroll and attend educational centers.”

He told Agenzia Fides that the educational project came as a response to the aspirations of President Mohamed Bazoum of Niger to “place education among the priorities of his mandate.”


In the June 14 report, the director of an association for the promotion of women in Nigerien society, Nafissatou Hassane Alfari is quoted as saying that while the government of the West African country seeks to educate the girl child, parents mount obstacles as they prefer to marry them off at an early age.

“Among the government's objectives is above all the schooling of girls. Parents prefer to marry them at 15 years of age. In fact, 77% of Nigerien girls are married before the age of 18, and 28% before the age of 15,” Ms. Alfari says.

She adds that Niger has the highest birth rate in the world with an average of six children per woman but an effort to free women is considered as an influence from the Western culture and therefore taken as a threat.

“When you fight for the emancipation of women, our chauvinist and conservative society immediately denounces you as being at the service of Western culture and its values, which conflict with Islam,” Ms. Alfari says, and adds, “We are accused of ruining the traditional values of Niger.”

She further says that the Jihadists and Muslim extremists are threatened by the transformative power of schools and that it is one of the reasons schools are not spared when villages are attacked.

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In the June 14 report by Agenzia Fides, Hadiza Maiga is presented as a well-wisher who “has created a sewing school and is responsible for welcoming girls who had to drop out of school because they were forced to marry by jihadists and undergo genital mutilation.” 

In the report, the girls Ms. Hadiza accommodates are those who manage to escape forced marriages and therefore cannot go back to their families in the village, because they would be rejected.

Ms. Hadiza welcomes the girls, gives them a home and the opportunity to learn a job and create a new life for themselves independently and responsibly, the report indicates.

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.