What we do

Mauritania: Gender equality for Haratines

Africa | Mauritania |
Haratine woman Mauritania

Duration: September 2011 – June 2015

Regions/countries: Mauritania

Minorities: Haratine women

Imagine you do not own your body. Your master owns it. It’s his to buy and sell. For work. For sex. You’re given gruelling work for which you are paid nothing. You’re forbidden from getting an education, from marrying the partner of your choice. You are beaten. And, possibly worst of all, you know that unless someone does something, your children will experience the same human indignity.

You are a slave. Living what the UN calls a social death.

Mauritania in North Africa has the most entrenched system of slavery in the world. Officially, Mauritania says this practice no longer exists. The experience of MRG says the opposite. We will work over the next three years with women of the Haratine or “slave caste” in Mauritania to empower them to bring about emancipation and lasting change for themselves, their families and communities.

Aims of the programme:

The goal of this three-year project is to increase the visbility of Haratine women within their own community, Mauritanian society as a whole, and internationally and to ensure that effective initiatives are implemented to address the issues they face.

Its specific objective is to increase the effective participation of Haratine women and Haratine-focused Community Service Organizations (CSOs) in local, regional and national decision-making processes.

This programme will help establish CSOs representing Haratine women and strengthen their capacity to better advocate for the Mauritanian government’s implementation of human rights instruments.

Haratines in Mauritania

Haratines in Mauritania are systematically deprived of their respect, dignity, and rights and oppressed by an historic system of slavery. The Haratine, or Black Moors, comprise from 30 to 40 per cent of the population in Mauritania. They are the most disenfranchised community in the country and suffer discrimination, marginalisation and exclusion due to their historic membership of the ‘slave caste’. Despite the official abolition of slavery in 1981, it is estimated that 18 per cent of Mauritania’s population live in slavery today.

Female Haratines face double discrimination both as members of the ‘slave caste’ and because they are women. They face the threats of forced and/or early marriage, lack of control of fertility, sexual abuse or rape, and trafficking into sexual exploitation which increase the dangers of severe maternal health problems and HIV/AIDS. Who they marry and at what age is decided by their master. Their children become the property of their masters and can be rented out, loaned or given as gifts in marriage. Freed Haratine women can generally only find work as domestics or in the sex trade. Haratine women suffer from degrading treatment and are excluded from decision-making processes and development dialogues directly impacting their social wellbeing.

Read an interview with Me Elid Mohameden, a lawyer supported by MRG to represent women and child victims of slavery in Mauritania.

Programme activities:

  • Baseline study on the life-situation of Haratine women;
  • Capacity-building workshop for representative of Haratines-focussed CSOs and Haratines women;
  • Experience and knowledge sharing workshop between women from Haratines-focussed CSOs and Haratine women;
  • Organisational capacity-building grants;
  • Establishment of an informal Haratine women network;
  • Creation of information sharing mechanis to inform the broader community of developments in gender equality and women’s rights;
  • Community-awareness trainings for members of the Haratine community, both women and men, on the issue of gender discrimination
  • Publication and dissemination of a report on the issue of intersectional discrimination affecting Haratine women
  • Production and launch of a documentary on the issue of intersectional discrimination affecting Haratine women
  • Advocacy at the local, national and international levels


Association des femmes chef de famille (AFCF)
The Association of Women Head of Families (AFCF) is dedicated to defending the rights of women and to fight for women’s emancipation in Mauritania. AFCF implement health and poverty reduction programmes. The Association is very active in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation. Website: http://www.afcf-mr.org/

SOS-Esclaves (SOS Slaves) has been leading the fight against slavery in Mauritania for over 14 years. It seeks to expose the realities of the practice, challenge its widespread acceptance and defend the rights of those seeking to escape slavery. It also works to end discrimination faced by people of slave descent. Website: www.sos-esclaves.com

Find out more…


flag_yellow_highThis programme is funded by the European Union. This content is the sole responsibility of Minority Rights Group International and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.

Filed Under: Women, Haratine
Share this content:

Related Content
Blogs and podcasts
Documentary Films
Press Releases
Advocacy Statements
What we do