“La Maison d’Acceuil” provides refuge and empowerment for victims of grave human rights abuses. This project works to alleviate very severe abuses of human rights in Mauritania. There is an urgent need in Mauritania for services for slaves who have fled or who would like to flee their masters. We therefore propose services for those fleeing slavery, those who want to flee slavery and need a place of refuge, and those who recently left slave relationships.
Services offered will include 1) basic life-skills and assistance to those in need of establishing a livelihood (life skills include literacy, numbers, self-advocacy, and human rights training, 2) basic business skills, 3) legal aid including assistance in obtaining national identity cards, and 4) job skills programs.
Goal of this Project
This project responds to the urgent need for services for escaped slaves. Those who flee slavery have no place to turn for even the most basic needs. Providing a safe haven and emergency services to aid the transition of escaped slaves is the primary goal of our project. The program offers essential services including basic medical first aid, life skills advising and education, basic education in human rights, legal aid, and job skills training.
Elaboration on the Main Concept:
La Maison d’Acceuil, also known among the project directors as la Maison du Refuge pour les Victimes (House of Refuge for Human Rights Victims), is designed to provide much needed services to a specific segment of the population. We envision a center offering rehabilitation, education, legal services and cultural enrichment.
Urgent cases of escaped and recently freed slaves will benefit from the safe haven of the Maison. The Maison serves the overwhelming needs for a refuge and for basic lsupport for those fleeing servitude.
Individuals breaking free from servitude require fundamental education and training. Our basic life-skills program is designed to provide basic skills for life outside of servitude, including literacy, numeracy, human rights and self-advocacy training. Some individuals will require medical care. Legal advice will certainly be required. Job skills will need to be developed. In sum, the Maison provides an array of services to help individuals establish a life outside extreme servitude.
The vast majority of slavery cases concern women, so our services are especially designed to aid women.
Some of the project activities will generate income or material benefits (garden produce, sewing products, carpentry, recycling) for La Maison and the program participants; this will contribute to strengthen the economic resources among victim populations.
Cultural events at La Maison will build and strengthen a culture of human rights in Nouakchott, both lifting people’s morale and educating them about rights and the rule of law.
The Organization of the Project, the Maison and the Services
Supervisory Board and Technical Expertise
The responsibility for the success of this project is shared by Biram Dah Abeid and Alice Bullard. These individuals form the Supervisory Board. Abeid is the President. Bullard the Executive in Chief of the Project.
The Supervisory Board has final approval of all hiring and all expenses. Accounting, services, and reporting are overseen and quality checked by the Supervisory Board. The Supervisory Board shall undertake the internal quarterly reviews in conjunction with the service providers.
The provision of services is, at least in part, continuous with services that IRA is already providing to the community, but in this project, such services will be more robust, augmented in scope and in impact, and enriched by greater participation of skilled members of the community.
Basic Life Skills and Literacy
The Life Skills and Literacy: Clients will be taught how to navigate life in Nouakchott, if necessary they will be taught how to count and how to use money, letters and beginning reading tutorials or classes will be offered. A primer on relevant law and human rights issues will be read and discussed with all lodgers. Teaching materials from the National Democratic Institute will be used. We will also use role-playing and skits to convey behavioral lessons about individual rights, property rights, pay for labor, and citizenship rights.
Included in the Basic Life Skills and Literacy program is the “Dire Needs” fund. This gives material assistance to escaped slaves who have no other recourse for basic life-needs (food, shelter, basic clothing or blankets). In addition,a medical care fund is included to serve the escaped slaves who arrive at the Maison in need of medical care for injuries sustained in captivity or while escaping.
Basic Business Skills:
With the aim of increasing the self-sufficiency and entrepreneurial skills of escaped slaves, we will offer training in basic business skills. This will include handling money, estimating business costs, knowing what you need to run a business, and generating profit
Legal Services: The Time is Ripe for the Recognition of full Citizenship Rights and Human Rights of ex-Slaves
In March 2014 the government adopted the “Road Map” as proposed by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Slavery to uproot the vestiges of slavery from Mauritanian society. Seminars sensitizing prosecutors and judges to the road map and to the importance of adhering to the rule of law (such as held in Nouakchott the 22 and 23 of October, 2014, as reported at http://www.cridem.org/C_Info.php?article=662362) seem to promise true reform. However, the case of Mabairika Mint M’bareck demonstrates that the judiciary and prosecutors are not yet willing to enforce the 2007 law that criminalized slavery. M’bareck is a fifteen year old who escaped from slavery. She appeared in court, in a proceeding that was supposed to inculpate her masters, and was herself charged with zina because she was visibly pregnant. The masters, meanwhile, were not charged with slave owning despite their courtroom admission to owning M’bareck. While the zina charges very recently were dropped, nonetheless M’bareck’s owners have not been prosecuted for slave-owning. (For more on this case see the attached letter to the Minister of Justice calling attention to the grave inequities of this trial).
It should be noted that in the case of M’bareck the court imposed a double duplicity. First, even though the masters admitted in court to owning M’bareck, no charges of slave owning were brought. Second, the charge of zina directly opposes the shari’a, in which slaves are permitted sexual objects for the masters. Thus in addition to the overwhelming burden of growing up in slavery, the court imposed two more burdens on M’bareck in refusing to recognize her rights as a victim to have the perpetrators criminally prosecuted, and in imposing on her a standard for moral conduct that was completely beyond her ability to maintain or defend.
Unfortunately, this type of mendacity by trial courts in Mauritania is not unusual. Moreover, the much heralded “road map” and the highly publicized official training seminars are clearly not having any immediate impact. The law of 2007 that imposed a criminal penalty for slavery, as is often pointed out, has never been successfully implemented.
Nonetheless, because the highest levels of government have very publicly declared their dedication to reforming the system (a dedication that is at this time completely without tangible fruit) the time is ripe for a strong push for the rights of freed slaves. In effect, it is time to call the government’s bluff. Either the courts must begin to enforce the rights of all Mauritanians, or the government will no longer be able to make a credible claim that Mauritania is a state governed by the rule of law.
Mauritania also must reform its laws pertaining to children born outside of marriage. The freed slave discussed above, M’bareck, will shortly give birth to a child. The rights of this child will be severely circumscribed under current Mauritanian law because only children born within marriage can receive a birth certificate and thereby can be officially registered at the Centre d’Acceuil Citoyens (CAC) (see, official document of L’Agence Nationale du Registre des Populations et des Titres Sécurisés (ANRPTS), attached). Without a birth certificate this child will not be granted full citizenship rights. For example, enrolling in public schools, taking the national exams to advance through schools, obtaining a job in the official sector, obtaining a passport and voting all require documentation of one’s birth. The inability to officially register children born to slave or ex-slave women is a major legal problem and a major infringement on the rights of citizenship (the right to citizenship is a human right enumerated in the International
Convention on Civil and Political Rights article 24).
Indeed, because slave women frequently are impregnated by their masters, this law requiring children to be born within marriage in order to get a birth certificate is a law that directly removes slave-descent individuals from the full rights of citizenship. We will provide legal representation to such individuals, pressing for ex-slaves to access their full rights as Mauritanian citizens.
In sum, Our legal aid at the Maison will focus on immediate needs and issues of the clients.
Legal advice is already offered on Sundays at the IRA office. However, there is currently only one volunteer lawyer, Maitre Deihy Abderrahamane O. Abdellahi. In July of 2014 Bullard was able to join the “legal clinic” day, but this was an exceptional event. Scaling up this program to include more trained advisers (using paralegals in the first instance) is an immediate goal. In particular, we will offer legal services related to securing the freedom and safety of escaped slaves, property and inheritance claims, obtaining identity documents such as birth certificates and other records, and registration with the national census and applying for a national identity card.
Job Skills Training and Job Creation
Job skills training is another essential service that we have already begun, but that could have much greater impact with more funding.
a) Sewing: One program that IRA has implemented is a sewing education program for women recently freed from slavery. This program trained twenty women and, after the training period was completed, the women were allowed to keep the sewing machines and to proceed with gaining a livelihood through their own entrepreneurial seamstress businesses. That project was funded by Europe Third World Association (ETEWA). IRA – Mauritanie worked in partnership with UNPO on this funded project which was concluded successfully in May of 2014.
We would like to re-implement the seamstress training program, as the first round of training was a success.
Graduates from the program will receive “starter kits” so that they can set up their own sewing business. The starter kit will include a sewing machine, thread and some fabric
b) training for domestic work: Almost every case brought to court by anti-slavery organizations in Mauritania has involved woman and girls working as domestic workers. The government of Mauritania has implicitly acknowledged this issue and started to address it by adopting, in May 2011, a Ministerial Decree (Ministère de la fonction publique, du travail et de la modernisation de l’administration) aiming to formalize the employment of domestic workers. The decree emphasizes the need for a minimum wage, a formal and signed contract, health insurance, and social security coverage by the employer. In fact the rights and duties outlined in the 2011 decree follow the outlined basic rights formalized in the 2011 ILO Convention on domestic workers rights. No further initiative by the Government to implement the adopted regulation has taken place since 2011.
In reponse to this situation the Maison will promote the goals outlined in the 2011 decree and will work with freed slaves to implement the goals of written contracts, a living wage, and health and social security coverage in the wage. We will work with our clients to create a labor pool that demands the protection of their own rights as domestic laborers. We will teach via role-playing how to engage as a domestic worker while protecting one’s own rights. We will provide model employment contracts. Our legal team will provide a first resort for individuals whose contracts have been violated.
c) Recycling Project: Nouakchott is awash in plastic and old aluminum cans. We propose to organize the collection of plastic and aluminum for recycling as an employment project for unskilled laborers. The low bar of entry into this jobs project is part of its appeal. This is work for both genders and for all ages fit to work. It will be accessible to those with the most minimal pre-existing skills. This project has the doubled impact of generating employment while also serving environmental goals. The first stage of this project would involve organizing teams to collect plastic and aluminum. Team captains will organize team collection efforts and organize the transportation of the team’s collection to a central depot. The team will be paid upon delivery of the team’s collections. The more ambitious version of this program would involve setting up a recycling center and installing machinery to recycle plastics and/or aluminum. Such an expansion will be considered after the first quarter implementing this service and would be subject to finding a sponsor. DM and IRA member volunteers will organize this program. If the recycling materials collected can be sold, proceeds will be divided between the Maison, the IRA volunteer organizers, and the team members.
d) carpentry and plumbing: The Maison will offer introductory training in these trades as fits client needs. Work on the maintenance of the Maison will feature among the training opportunities. Taught by IRA volunteers or international NGO volunteers. We anticipate low demand for this, as we anticipate most of our clients to be women.
e) kitchen and market gardening: The climate in Nouakchott lends itself to year-round gardening for a variety of vegetables and fruits. Small scale market gardening is a common means for women to earn cash. The garden produce can also be used at La Maison to make nutritious meals. The garden will be located either on-site of the Maison or nearby. (We have received a separate pledge for financial support to secure land for gardening). The kitchen gardening program will by run by the DR with assistance from IRA member volunteers. Proceeds from the Maison garden will be split between the garderners, the IRA volunteers, and the Maison.
Graduates from the gardening program will receive “starter kits” that include gardening tools and some seeds or plants.
f) individual choice: to accomodate the individual skills and talents of our clients we will support training at vocational schools for specific skills. For example, clients might aspire to work as a beautician, a driver, or a cook. For such clients, we will help find appropriate classes and pay the course fees.
The Maison will host cultural events several times per quarter. The cultural events will be directed toward building a culture of human rights. Within this thematic focus, diverse programs will be scheduled. These will include music, poetry, drama, visual art installations, and lectures. These cultural events will be open to the public.
The needs in Mauritania are acute. The historical moment in Mauritania is highly opportune for human rights interventions. Mauritania is playing an increasing role in regional security and is the recipient of much military investment. However, the impoverished population is not well served by the authoritarian state. Human rights abuses are suffered most acutely by the enslaved/newly freed. Women often suffer the worst abuses.
Despite the statute 048 2007 that criminalized slavery in Mauritania, the practice of inherited slavery is still current. Moreover, those freed from slavery through the efforts of IRA – Mauritanie and other anti-slavery organizations, usually have no place to turn for material or moral support. The risk of falling back from freedom into exploitative slave-like situations is very real.
If the struggle against slavery remains concentrated on the liberation of slaves, their freedom will mean little. Currently the freed do not have anyplace to go to find a roof over their heads. They have no place to turn for assistance. Girls risk falling into sexual exploitation and boys risk induction into criminal activities.
Freed slaves often play an important role in their families. Through hard work and very frugal living they seek to pay for private schools and seek to aid family members still living in the slave villages. (n.b., public schools are not available to many of the victims of human rights abuses because they do not have the national identity cards necessary for enrollment).
The freed slaves also suffer from expropriation of property such as houses and livestock, and the denial of national identity cards. Those who defend the human rights of these victims are themselves frequently charged with criminal offenses and sentenced to imprisonment. The denial of identity cards is so acute that in the recent (June 2014) presidential election the number of potential voters who lacked identity cards and hence could not vote exceeded the number who actually voted.
The current situation in Mauritania is one of increased military presence in and strategic importance of the geographic area, combined with extreme poverty and the deprivation of basic human rights — including the right to liberty, right to citizenship (as attained through a national identity card), right to property (rather than expropriation based on the view that “slaves cannot own property”), right to equal protection under the law.
This volatile combination of militarization and rights deprivation contributes to instability in the state. Also at this time, the Haratine are in the process of deep social transformation (a process often called the Haratine Awakening). Strengthening the human rights culture in Mauritania at this volatile and transformational time is especially crucial.
Project Budget :
Objective: Direct services to escaped and escaping slaves, specifically: life-skills, business skills, legal aid, and job training (sewing, domestic work, gardening, recycling, carpentry, and independent choice).
Scope: We anticipate serving approximately 120 clients per year for full services (basic life skills, basic business skills, legal services and job training). As space and funding permits, we will also serve clients who need only specific services, for example legal aid or a specific job training program.
NOTE: if costs for services are lower than budgeted, excess will be dedicated to expanding the number of clients served.
1) Purchase of Land: $30,000
The estimated cost of the land, including transaction costs, is $30,000.
2) Construction of the Maison: $120,000
Estimated construction costs include: architectural/design costs, infrastructure (utilities), labor and materials, basic furnishings for the building including kitchen, bathrooms, sleeping rooms, instructional and classroom furnishings, office furnishings.
AFTER CONSTRUCTION OF THE MAISON:
Providing Services — Annual Expenses: $271,100
Basic Life-skills: $46,000
literarcy, numeracy, human rights, self-advocacy
we anticipate all of our clients needing the Basic Life-Skills training.
number of clients = 120. Cost per client = $300 Total = $36,000
dire need material aid
food = $3,000
blankets/clothing = $2,000
medical = $5,000
Basic Business Skills: $12,000
number of clients =120, cost per client = $100 Total = $12,000
Legal Aid: $131,100
number of clients = 120, average fees per client = $1,000 (note: legal fees will vary depending on services needed)
Total legal fees = $120,000
court costs = $600
regional transportation = $10,000
fees for identity cards = $1,000
telephone charges = $500
Job Training: $60,000
$500 per client (average) x 120 clients
sewing (includes starter kit)
carpentry and plumbing
gardening (includes starter kit)
Quarterly and Annual Program Assessment: $17,000 (6% of budget total)
Quarterly Reviews: $12,000
3 quarterly reviews @$4,000 per
program evaluation, review of accounting, planning for subsequent quarter honorarium = $1,000
travel & lodging= $3,000
Annual Third Party Assessment: $5,000
contract with third party
Total: $271,100 ($2,259 per client per year)
Biram Dah Abeid,
IRA – Mauritanie
Chief Executive Officer,
IRA – USA