Mauritania: Gender equality for Haratines

Programme |
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.

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.

Find out more…


This evaluation (read it in English or French) examined a program of support for Mauritanian NGO’s, a program that worked to integrate a gender equality approach to their work and to advocate for the rights of the Haratine women. The goal of the project was to establish strong leadership and long term organizational sustainability amongst the Haratine community with Haratine women and Haratine civil society organizations. This was to ensure their effective participation in decision making processes on both national and international levels. This evaluation worked to evaluation the efficiency and effectiveness of the project, assess the sustainable impact, carry out a critical analysis, and to “record the knowledge gained from the best practices on the design”. Ultimately, it was learned that this program was quite successful, with the average rate of objectives achieved being 77.3%. The beneficiaries of the training sessions gained vital knowledge and skills that could be put to use on both professional and social levels. However, there were some shortcomings to be noted, including the turnover both of MRG and EU staff. This resulted in a lack of communication and collaboration between the two different organizations.  However, the evaluation notes that the “lack of engagement on behalf of the Mauritanian government and the foreign embassies remains the principle obstacle preventing significant changes to the Haratine community’s situation in Mauritanian society from happening.” Despite these shortcomings, the project played a key role in promoting the rights of this vulnerable community and successfully emphasized feminine leadership.

The evaluator put forward a small number of recommendations – that work to support the Haratine Community in Mauritania, should continue, that MRG should consider focusing in some different geographical areas of the country where needs are very high, that MRG should consider focusing on ensuring that all members of the community have access to ID documents, that MRG should consider hiring a local communications staff member to ensure dissemination and use of materials produced and that MRG should consider supporting the community to gain access to income generating projects due to the extreme poverty undermining other efforts.

Download the full evaluation report in English or French.


EUThis 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.

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