Our Work


Strengthen and amplify local voices

The center of excellence in women's health and empowerment is born

Sahelian young women writing.png

We know that expertise and passion are built by meaningful, practical experience in the field and through close contact with inspirational leaders. In the Sahel region, local champions with this expertise and passion are needed to support family planning efforts that will have a critical impact on women’s health, empowerment, and the region’s development.  To this end, a new partnership was announced that marks an important step forward. With the support of the OASIS Initiative, the University Abdou Moumouni, Niger and University of California, Berkeley signed a Memorandum of Understanding in March 2017 allowing them to join forces to support the launch of a Center of Excellence in women’s health and empowerment.

This multidisciplinary center, based in Niamey, Niger, will become a hub for research and collaboration on population and family planning in the Sahel region. The activities and partnerships of the Center will help inspire interest in family planning and support experts who are passionate advocates for national investments in this field and who can conceive of and implement successful programs. The Center’s research will also help deepen the understanding of what works in Niger to delay marriage and childbearing and generate demand for family planning. Read more about this partnership and the Center for Excellence here.

Sahel Leadership Program

The Sahel is facing a series of humanitarian threats: global warming, extreme poverty, the low status of women and the rapid growth of the population. The solution to these problems must be primarily endogenous to the region. The Sahel is home to many emerging leaders, but they have limited access to funding opportunities and professional development. Due to the divisions between disciplines, professionals working in complementary areas rarely have the opportunity to develop integrated solutions. Strengthening collaboration and interdisciplinary communication will improve the sustainability and impact of their work in the field of development. Learn more about the program here. View our brochure here

See photo highlights from the SLP Intensive Training 2017 and check out the video below. You can also watch a video segment broadcasted on Télé Sahel, Niger's national TV station. 


Women in Development Research Internship

For the next generation of West African researchers and young professionals, obtaining a graduate level internship is a critically important yet terribly difficult hurdle to surmount in order to earn a Masters degree. The OASIS Initiative’s Women in Development internship program provides scholarships to Masters 2 students at University Abdou Moumouni (UAM) in Niger and assists them in securing a 3-month placement at local, national and international institutions. The students also benefit from a week-long research methods course, facilitated by OASIS for UAM students, before their begin their placement where they learn qualitative and quantitative methods that they can directly apply to their thesis research. To date, OASIS has funded 22 graduate students studying topics related to family planning, reproductive health, women’s empowerment, and food security. These research internships are launching young leaders into the next phase of their career by allowing them to collect data for their thesis, gain valuable professional skills, and expand their work experience so that they can lead development change in the Sahel. Learn more about the 2017 fellows here.

Building the Evidence Base


The World Bank's SWEDD Project is designed to better understand the causes of early marriage, and to design, evaluate, and scale up family planning and interventions strengthening alternatives to early marriage in six countries in the region. SWEDD's ultimate goal is to help increase young women's productivity and earnings through delayed marriage, so as to better situate regions to reap a demographic dividend. The World Bank invited OASIS' Daniel Perlman to use an ethnographic approach to investigate the causes of early marriage. The study, led by Dr. Daniel Perman and Dr. Fatima Adamu of Usmanu Danfodiyo University and conducted in a region of Niger with some of the highest rates of maternal mortality, child marriage, and infant mortality, found that the main cause for early marriage was a combined result of poor educational opportunities and a concern for girls' safety. Social and economic barriers, including poor school quality and lack of income, often hinder school enrollment, making marriage a preferable option to idleness. 

There is a girl in the compound where we stay who lives with her grandmother. She goes to school in the morning and hawks in the afternoon. I was surprised at how well the girl merges house chores and hawking with school. She wakes up as early as 6am to pound millet. After that she prepares for school. When she comes home from school she drinks some kunu and immediately goes to hawk. I’m told that she does very well in school though she seems to have little time to do homework. I asked her about this and she said she wished she had more time to read her books, but as it is she is able to answer the teacher’s questions correctly in class. I can only imagine what she could do if she had time to study”
— from the field notes of the researcher in Yakassa community, excerpt from Perlman, D., F. Adamu, and Q. Wodon, editors, 2015, Vulnerability of Adolescent Girls in Niger, Washington, DC: The World Bank


Sahel ResiliEnce Learning

Building on SWEDD findings, the OASIS Initiative -- in collaboration with the Sahel Resilience Learning Project (SAREL) and the West African Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESAO) -- is conducting an ethnographic assessment in Maradi, Niger. the purpose of this study is to help inform USAID capacity building activities for adolescent girls and their communities. USAID's resilience efforts in Niger aim to respond to the food security needs of people in Maradi and Zinder, two of the most malnourished regions of Niger. Initial study findings have been so appreciated by the partners that in early 2016, Mercycorps and NCBA CLUSA committed to supporting the project for an additional 9 months (estimated value 45,000> A preliminary report is due mid 2016. OASIS' Daniel Perlman is learning this work. Learn more about the initiative here.

room to grow

Culturally acceptable interventions are urgently needed to avert malnutrition and chronic food insecurity, and to achieve the country's ambitious target of reaching a contraceptive prevalence rate of 50% by 2020. Current efforts in the Sahel often fail to incorporate women as central to solutions, or as key actors and agents of change. Our project begins with women, and is rooted in places where women already gather and thrive - the garden, which is emerging as a vital place for women to meet, grow nutritious food, and generate income. The project team proposes to assess proof-of-concept for an integrated solution that brings together community-based delivery of family planning and promotion of essential nutrition actions, with OASIS leading research to compare intervention and control gardens. 


This is the provocative title of a project proposal on which OASIS was invited to collaborate with Lund University, Sweden and University of Khartoum. It refers to the supply and demand for food in the Sahel. The project proposes to integrate community distribution of family planning with ongoing rural agriculture outreach initiatives in Sudan and Nigeria. The partners received a small planning grant and we are awaiting decision from the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network on a larger grant for action-research. Learn more here.

waking up the world

Advocating for family planning in the united nations strategic response plan for the sahel 

UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNCOHA) 2014-2016 response plan has a nearly one billion dollar shortfall. Meanwhile, the plan's executive summary states "despite a 1% increase in overall crop yield (over the last five year average), the per capita yield declined by 13% due to population growth." That plan does not include reproductive health services. And yet decades of evidence show that upholding a women's right to make choices about family size results in meaningful changes in national-level demography. OASIS is making the case for inclusion of family planning in the Strategic Response Plan for the Sahel. 

Friends of the Sahel Network

Launching the Friends of the Sahel Network (FOSN) was one of OASIS' initial achievements. FOSN is a virtual, international network of people interested in the Sahel and the work of OASIS. The network is a platform to share occasional highlights from our work and opportunities for our friends in the region. We have over 1,500 Friends of the Sahel and growing. In 2016 we intend to use our network more strategically to attract new donors. 

debating populations and emissions

Alisha Graves contributed three essays to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists roundtable on the topic: Are efforts to limit population growth a legitimate element of climate mitigation - and can they be pursued without exacting unacceptable ethical costs? See part of her response below: 

Lessons of the Sahel: Family planning as a means for mitigating climate change is a familiar enough idea, but family planning for adapting to climate change may sound far out. It is not. Because climate change negatively affects some staple crops, it worsens food insecurity in parts of the world. But according to a 2012 study that modeled climate change, food production, and population growth in Ethiopia, achieving low fertility by 2050 might fully make up for climate change's negative effects on Ethiopian agriculture. (A lower overall population means more calories are available for person.) Perhaps more tellingly, some rural women in Ethiopia say they are choosing smaller families to help them better deal with the negative effects of climate change. Women in Niger say that smaller families mean less competition for food during the lean season.
-- Excerpt from Graves, A. 2015, Green Sex for climate's sake, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.