Last week, the West African Regional Courts passed a landmark judgement that may potentially enable those trafficked and enslaved in West Africa to receive better protection against slavery, and receive compensation from their governments. The government of Niger has been ordered to pay Hadijatou Mani 10m CFA francs (USD 20,000) as compensation for failing to protect her against slavery. This judgement may open the way for other slaves to demand compensation and protection from their governments.
Hadijatou Mani’s story is not an unusual one. She was sold by her Berber family to a Hausa master for a sum of about USD 500. Her master forced Hadijatou Mani to work long and gruelling days. She collected firewood, cooked, fetched water and worked on the farm. Hadijatou Mani was forced to bear her master’s children and was beaten many times. When Hadijatou Mani ran to her family for help they returned her to her master a few days later.
Hadijatou Mani’s quest for justice began after she discovered that the government of Niger had banned slavery. However, in many parts of West Africa – and especially rural areas – due to poor communication and access to education, many slaves do not even know that slavery has been outlawed by their governments. Anti-Slavery International, the organisation that helped Hadijatou Mani, has helped free 80 women in Niger over the last five years. They suggest up to 8% of the population in Niger is enslaved, and up to 18% in neighbouring Mauritania may be enslaved. The governments of Niger and Mauritania strongly dispute these figures. STOP THE TRAFFIK hopes that this judgement may provide hope and opportunity for other women in Hadijatou mani’s position.