TAHOUA, Niger - Less than two years ago, Hady Rabou and her young child begged on the streets during the day and spent their nights in the compound of the regional hospital building in the northern Nigerien city of Tahoua. As a woman with a disability, Ms. Rabou struggled to find work. 

Today, her life looks very different; the young woman and her family have a roof over their heads and Ms. Rabou has a job with Kossom, an association of small dairy businesses. She receives a monthly salary of 10,000 XOF (around 16 USD) and her husband, who oversees the premises, also receives an income.

 

Kossom Association sells dairy products, but it is more than just a successful business – it brings together five women's organizations, some of which represent women living with a disability, with a view to enhancing gender equality.

“We took 45,000 XOF from the profits of our sales to build Hady a home” says Kossom President Hadiza Garba. “She has a home she shares with her husband and her son, an identity document and a job in a women's group.”

Hadiza was introduced to Hady by Mariama Altine, a community mediator for the NGO Songes at the Integrated Health Centre of Garkaoua. 

Hady Rabou and her husband both work for the dairy association and now earn a regular income. Photo: Spotlight Initiative/Rafik Photography

Ms. Altine has a disability herself, and understood the unique challenges Hady faced in finding employment. She saw an opportunity for Hady at Kossom. Likewise, Kossom President Hadiza – a widowed mother of four – knew that you should not judge people based on preconceptions or prejudice. Her organization had benefited from Spotlight Initiative-supported gender-based violence training, which emphasizes the rights of all women and girls including the most vulnerable.

"As soon as you say that the other is different, you dismiss them,” says Hadiza. “You accentuate their vulnerability and this puts them on the outskirts of society. Today there are 40 women working in our small business. They do not all have a disability, but the message we give to all women living with a disability is come to work [with us] and integrate!”

"As soon as you say that the other is different, you dismiss them. You accentuate their vulnerability and this puts them on the outskirts of society." - Kossom President Hadiza Garba

A Spotlight Initiative small grant has helped Kossom recruit and train even more women.

Ms. Altine, who struggled to find a job herself, says that the hardships she faced helped her find her calling.

“The pain I experienced gave birth to a vocation in me: helping others and moving forward,” she says. “I always have respect for myself and for others. I prefer to be strong to continue helping vulnerable people. It is my determination and my personal commitment.”

By Fatou Binetou Dia