A few weeks ago, I met Dioda. Her name in her mother's tongue means « Stay ! ». (Before she was born, her mother lost two babies !). She is Wodaabe.
Wodaabe are nomads, migrating through much of the Sahel from northern Cameroon to Chad, Niger, and northeast Nigeria. The last nomads in the area, the Wodaabe, a number between 160,000 and 200,000. Others around them - the Hausa, Fulani, and Tuareg - regard the Wodaabe as wild people.
Dioda is the mother of 2 beautiful children: Alima and Boubakar.
Those are Arabic names. And as you can see, Dioda wears a veil, like most women and girls in town.
Even though she lives in Niamey, the capital of Niger, she wishes she could go back to live in the bush. Her husband had found a job in Niamey a few years ago: he was a guard, and Dioda eventually joined him. But, six months ago, he died, leaving her alone in Niamey with their two children. Diola does not have a job and is on her own. Very few people help her with little food, and her situation has become very precarious.
She lived a nomadic life, wore traditional Wodaabe clothes and jewelry and believed in Wodaabe traditional bush spirits.
But, today, even in the area where she lived before, Wodaabe had to put aside all their traditions: beliefs, clothes, jewelry, way of life because of security matters in the region.
In the end of our conversation, Dioda could not hold her tears, as she knows there is almost no chance for an immediate better future.
There are fewer and fewer Wodaabe left who still manage to maintain their way of life in Niger, while more relocate to towns town setting aside their traditional lifestyle.
✐ Sandrine Villa
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