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Day 12 Update (via Satellite) – November 6th 2007

Nouakchott

The temperature here is enourmous at 40-45C at the hottest part of the day and it makes doing anything exhausting. However, we visited Madame Maye Mint Haidy today. Madame Haidy works for the government compiling statistics and ‘on the side’ she collates statistics relating to slavery. She was a feisty character who was very pleased to introduce us to UNICEF and to her friends in the Ministry who would vouce for her work. After the visit to these places with Claudio we had a good handle on the sorts of slavery that exists in Mauritania.

Slavery exists in Mauritania in these ways:

1. Street children who are forced to beg at street corners and when they don’t reach the required target, they are then beaten.

2. Female Circumcision. About 71% of the female population are circumcised.

3. Under age marriage – as young as 12 years old.

4. An ancient feudal system of land and people ownership which still persists today

Later in the day, some of the team went to visit an organisation called SOS Esclaves. They campaign for the legal rights of people who are affected by these forms of slavery. We were fully expecting just to have an interview with the leadership team, but we were ushered into a room and slowly more and more people came to meet us. Until in the end, around 30 victims of modern days slavery came to tell us their stories. It was a moving experience to speak first hand with these people and their strength and humility was striking.

Because slavery has only been outlawed here since August 2007, we are getting very mixed and confusing messages from whoever you speak to. Some say it doesn’t exist but the meeting as SOS Esclaves paints a very different story.

On the team side of things, because we are in 4 apartments (6 to each), communication has been very difficult. Claudio has set up all of the contacts here and the last two days have been a moveable feast of activities which various groupings have been attending. We are all looking forward to getting everyone together and debriefing. It’s been a bit ‘not knowing what the right hand is doing’ type of scenario. We’ll muddle through, but compared to being in cars with the CB radios, communication has been strained…

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