The city of Assamaka is a small town in the Agadez region in northwestern Niger. Located in the heart of the Sahara desert and in the Agadez region, the city is fifteen kilometres from the border with Algeria. It is also a key transit point for migrants en route to Algeria or returning from Algeria to Niger.
The city is therefore confronted with significant migratory flows, which can be challenging to manage for this vast and very sparsely populated area with around a thousand inhabitants ; on average, 1,300 vulnerable migrants pass through Assamaka every month.
This situation can lead to competition over available and limited local resources, creating frustration and tension between migrants and host communities.
To strengthen the resilience of local authorities and communities to these challenges, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) implements its community stabilisation programme in Assamaka. In this area, a steering community committee has been set up with various community representatives to identify sources of conflict between host communities and migrants and propose solutions to these challenges.
In 2020, the Groupement des femmes d'Assamaka (Assamaka women's group) requested the committee to provide them with a space to support their group in their sewing activities. This space would contribute to their empowerment and be a learning and production space for women. The request is accepted, and a women's centre (foyer féminin) was built and delivered in 2021.
"Before, the women of Assamaka used to meet at one of their homes for this sewing activity. Now we have our own space dedicated to this activity," says Aichatou Maliki, president of the federation of women's groups in Assamaka.
Around 40 women come to this centre. Some are specialised in sewing, others in knitting. The group has been provided with threads, spools of fabric, loincloths, sewing machines, and knitting machines to start this activity.
They also received tables, chairs, and mats for the facility and were trained for three months by trainers on the basics of sewing and knitting. Together, they sew and knit clothes that they sell in the town. Then, at the end of the month, they spend a part of the profit they make on materials to improve the centre and share the rest of the amount.
"Today, we manage to earn more through sewing. It's a good business that works well here. Before, we had to send our sewing to Arlit, 220 kilometres from Assamaka. For the end of Ramadan 2022, for example, all the women of Assamaka had their sewing done here at home," Aichatou says proudly. "Thanks to this new centre, the training, and the equipment in place, we can now do everything in our town without leaving it," she adds.
The group also has ambitious plans with the income from the women's centre. "With the profits, we have repaired windows, tables, and benches, bought jerry cans to transport water, and also paid for the regularisation of our women's federation papers. The next challenge is installing a drinking water pump in the home, which we will proudly do with our own funds," says the president.
In addition to the economic contribution, Aichatou believes that the centre contributes significantly to the social cohesion between the migrants and the host communities in this small town.
"In March, for International Women's Day, we invited the migrant women to the hostel. We spent the day together. We have an excellent relationship with them. We integrate them because it is also thanks to them that we have benefited from this women's centre. They can participate in the centre's activity if they wish," concludes Aichatou.
The Assamaka women's centre was built through IOM's community stabilisation programme with funding from the European Union's Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.