Global Fellows Recap: Dr. Randy Cantrell

"I returned to Niger (I served in the Peace Corps there more than two decades ago) during the summer of 2017 to explore the new life encountered by young males who migrate from their village to the capital city of Niamey in hopes of earning money to save for themselves and to send back to their family in the village. Niger has unprecedented demographics: the average citizen’s age is 14.8 years old; the fertility rate is 7.8 children per woman; and though the infant mortality rate is decreasing, 1 in 4 children die before the age of 5. One financial strategy for families living in villages is to choose a male to migrate to the capital (or elsewhere) in hopes of earning a living to save toward a dowry while also sending money back to the family in the village. The reality is these young men typically arrive in Niamey with nowhere to live, no job, and little money to pay for their basic needs. It takes time, hard work, and a little good fortune for them to begin to make progress toward their goals.

The government has an underrepresented (voiceless) majority on its hands, and that majority desires to be heard. Seemingly, it would behoove the government to seriously implement an advisory commission comprising young people from all sectors of Niger, especially from the poorer working class. This sector does not seem to feel empowered enough to effect meaningful positive change in its future, and that is not only demoralizing but also could pose potential risks to Niger’s future. If young people could be incorporated into the political voice of the government such that they feel empowered, they might become more of a productive component of society. Sometimes the mere feeling of knowing you are “part of the team” is sufficient to cause you to “come to practice and work hard” because you believe your opportunity will one day arise. Otherwise, it is quite conceivable for these young people to become disillusioned due to a sense of abandonment and drift further apart from the goals of the “team.”"