Promoting social cohesion through peaceful reconciliation of communities in Mauritania
Despite several legal and institutional opportunities offered to former slave communities in Mauritania as part of efforts to take into account their rights and specific needs (abolitionist laws and creation of specific structures), these communities continue to suffer the disastrous consequences of the legacy of slavery. Not only is their social-cultural environment unfavorable to the implementation of these measures (distance; dispersion; rain-fed agriculture as main source of income; widespread lack of education and illiteracy), they also lack the basic awareness and knowledge of their rights and do not have the capacities needed to take advantage of these rights.
The effective exercise of power is in the hands of the community of the descendants of former masters who hold approximately 77 per cent of parliamentary seats while former slave communities only hold nine per cent. Former slaves are marginalised because of illiteracy (90 per cent of illiterate people in the project zone) and by tribal hegemony that still holds them in a servitude status. They lack the self-confidence, capacities and means to liberate them from that status.
ACORD has been carrying out projects to fight this legacy of slavery in the Hodh el Gharbi region since 2011 with funding from the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), reaching very encouraging results in terms of political participation and alphabetization, among others.
Learn about how ACORD Improving Livelihoods in Mauritania
The objective of the project is to contribute to fighting the legacy of slavery and discrimination in Mauritania through the promotion of human rights, education, peaceful reconciliation and political participation of ex-slaves communities and their descendants, in particular women.
The expected results of the project are:
1: Discriminated communities (former slaves, women) know their rights and understand the importance of education so as not to perpetuate inherited servitude through:
• A sensitisation campaign on human rights and the importance of children’s education through the production of information leaflets and posters; holding meetings/debates in the sub-regional capital with political, traditional and religious leaders; community meetings and media engagement in 20 localities;
• Training of 15 female and 15 male community leaders, youth and women and civil society organisations on human rights; social inclusion; labour rights; women’s rights; and the right to development;
• Pilot experiment to support continued primary and secondary education for the best pupils of the Adwabas (rain-fed agricultural villages, mainly inhabited by former slaves), in particular girls (scholarship to cover food, clothing and school supplies, as well as accommodation fees for 25 pupils at primary level and 15 at secondary); and
• Support to community advocacy for a better access to education for former slave communities, in particular girls, which will include advocacy/sensitisation at community level; advocacy towards local and regional authorities; and advocacy at national level.
2: Different socio-cultural components understand each other and community leaders promote social peace through:
• Public student essay competition on the fight against the legacy of slavery with the five best essays published;
• A caravan of women and youth organisations representatives from the cities travels through the rural project areas to dialogue with local communities on national identity and citizenship;
• Training of 40 community and religious leaders on the promotion and consolidation of social peace using the social contract methodology; and
• Collect success stories to widely disseminate among communities through plays, media and community talks to show populations it is possible to end marginalisation and promote reconciliation between former slaves and former masters).
3: Marginalised communities understand democratic concepts and actively participate to the local and national electoral processes through:
• Training of 100 community leaders, youth and women on participatory democracy, the electoral process, and social justice;
• Sensitisation campaign at community level for political awakening through creation and training of a committee of political awareness and action in each and sensitization meetings;
• Advocacy for a better representation of former slaves communities and women in the electoral process towards local, regional and national authorities and political stakeholders; tribal and religious leaders; and intellectuals through public events, meetings and roundtables; and
• Produce a manual on citizenship, with reference to national laws, human, civil and political rights and applicable international conventions to be disseminated in a campaign to include training sessions on the manual for leaders and women and youth leaders.