‘When I saw the poverty in the villages, I cried for nights on end’, says Sister Marie Catherine Kingbo.
Mother Marie Catherine, as her sisters call her, came from Senegal to Maradi, a village in Niger, West Africa, in 2006. It was here, on the edge of the desert, where she founded the ‘Servants of Christ’ congregation, the first Christian community in this predominantly Muslim country.
Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world. The West-African monsoon used to bring rain from May to October. But it’s become increasingly rare. Famine and drought mean that over 2.4 million, including 800,000 children, are starving and vulnerable, and there are no improvements in sight.
Women and girls endure the lion’s share, mostly due to child marriage which can see girls of ten or… twelve being married to men old enough to be their grandfathers, and female genital mutilation, a cruel, centuries-old tradition, still widespread in Niger. It is nearly always carried out on young girls, some time between infancy and adolescence. It has no health benefits, it only causes harm.