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“My name is Madame Aichatou Mounkaila. I come from Niger”

Aichatou Mounkaila outside of the United Nations in New York. Photo: Michael de Vulpillieres/CARE

Aichatou Mounkaila outside of the United Nations in New York. Photo: Michael de Vulpillieres/CARE

Aichatou Mounkaila has spent the last 20 years of her life supporting and empowering women and girls.

Since 2021, she has led the Network of Women’s Organizations of the Lake Chad Basin (RESOF-BLT), a collective of women’s rights and women-led groups from across Niger, Chad, Cameroun, Nigeria, Mali, and Burkina Faso, a region coping with the most severe impacts of armed violence and climate change.

The network focuses their efforts on conflict prevention, mediation, peacebuilding, and the protection of civilians.

CARE, which was involved in RESOF-BLT’s creation, provides technical assistance to the network and helps their advocacy.

In May of this year, with the support of CARE, Mounkaila was invited by the Swiss Mission to the United Nations to brief the UN Security Council during its annual open debate on the protection of civilians.

She shared the following with our team after speaking at the UN.

Not long ago, our region enjoyed peace and security, with a flourishing community meeting its social and economic needs through hard work. However, that has all changed. Armed conflict ignited in February 2015, and the peace we once knew turned into a state of emergency.

As the president of Le Réseau des Organisations Féminines du Bassin du Lac Tchad [Network of Women’s Organizations in the Lake Chad Basin], I’ve come to New York to address the United Nations Security Council.

My mission is clear – I am here to represent African women, the women of the Lake Chad Basin, and speak about our specific problems, particularly the issue of protecting civilians.

Women in the village of Kandusa taking part in a climate-resiliency training in 2021. Photo: CARE Niger

In the Lake Chad Basin, women and girls have faced displacement on a massive scale. Many were torn from their families, as husbands and siblings fell victim to the violence.

The survivors now carry the heavy burden of trauma and psychological distress. They have endured sexual and gender-based violence and struggle to access resources. All they want now is the bare minimum to care for their families, feed their children, and give them a chance to attend school. They seek opportunities for income-generating activities to support their families and themselves.

These courageous women and girls have a story to tell, a story that I carry as a messenger to the world. They have faced adversity with unwavering resilience.

Zeinabou, a 17-year old in Niger who is taking part in a village savings and loan association with CARE’s help. Photo: Ylva Seiff Berge/CARE Norway

Our Network of Women’s Organizations in the Lake Chad Basin was conceived to integrate the voices and needs of women and girls into the regional strategy for stabilizing the Lake Chad Basin. Despite our limited resources as local NGOs – we yearn for significant support – for we hold the key to integrating women into peace dialogues, consultations, and mediation processes.

We are at the heart of the crisis, on the frontlines, where displaced people and refugees await humanitarian aid.

Aichatou Mounkaila

I was invited by the President of the UN Security Council (the Swiss Permanent Mission to the UN) to speak on behalf of these remarkable women, girls, and vulnerable populations. They need protection, emergency humanitarian aid, and security for their physical well-being, means of existence, and the places they call home. My responsibility is to deliver their message loud and clear, and I do so with utmost dedication.

Although we may lack the means of the state, we make the most of what we have. These women, survivors of violence or victims of unimaginable hardships, need a listening ear, a shoulder to lean on, and access to shelter and food.

The sun sets on the outskirts of Niamey, where CARE is working with local groups to help women and girls. Photo: Ylva Seiff Berge/CARE Norway

In times of crisis, it was women’s organizations that stepped up first to offer help to those impacted by the conflict. Our approach is comprehensive, encompassing protection and psychosocial support, reaching out to organizations that can effectively lend a hand.

Our collaboration with CARE and other partners, particularly UN Women, empowers us to make a difference. CARE’s assistance paved the way for us to connect with the Swiss Mission and address the Security Council. They are an essential partner for us, working together for a common cause.

What truly inspires me is knowing that my actions have a meaningful impact. To be of service to a community, to save lives, is a profound realization. Helping a girl go to school can change her life, and proposing programs to support households with food aid saves lives. It is a fulfilling responsibility.

I invite everyone to join our cause, to share our message, and to rally behind these impacted communities. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of these remarkable women and be a beacon of hope in their darkest hours.

CARE’s partnership with Aichatou and the Network of Women’s Organizations of the Lake Chad Basin is part of CARE’s global vision to advance women’s and girls’ voice and leadership and to ensure their meaningful participation at every level of decision-making in political, economic, public and private life.

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