The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) declares: “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” Despite this, around 20 million men, women and children throughout the world are in slavery, forced to work through the threat or use of violence, denied freedom, physically constrained, dehumanised and treated as property, or bought and sold.
Poverty, ignorance and laxity of certain governments makes it possible, even nowadays, for these situations, that would seem to belong to the past and have been socially overcome, to continue in existence.
Niger is a western Africa state from the Sahel region, known as the Hungry Belt. Populated by 15.3 million people, its economy is one of the poorest worldwide (its mean wage is 436$ per year per person) and two in every three people lives below extreme poverty levels. Its Human Development Index is the second lowest worldwide.
In Níger, nowadays, at least 43,000 people are in slavery. Slaves are used for all of a nomadic household’s labour. Men mainly herd, and women carry out domestic chores. They have no choice in who they ‘marry’, whether they can go to school, or the work they do. They are owned by their master.
Many Niger people consider slavery normal, that it is their God-given place. The majority don’t know that liberty is a possibility.
The history of slavery in Niger is long. After Independence from France, slavery was abolished in 1960, but it was not banned in all its effects until 1999 and was criminalised in 2003. The same year, the Government of Niger took a significant step forward in responding to the problem of slavery by recognising that it has not been totally eradicated. From that moment, this practice would be punished with fines and imprisonment of between 10 and 30 years.
Despite this, organizations of struggle against slavery, as Anty-Slavery International and its affiliate in Niger, Trimidia, still seeing cases of slavery and claim that the authorities are not acting as promised and not defending the rights of its citizens.
Some data about Niger
Niger is the second lowest valued country in the Human Development Index, which means it is at the worldwide bottom in terms of wages, education, life expectance, and many values combined to mesure the social levels of a country beyond the economics. Life expectance is less than 55 years, and education mean is less than a year and half.
As above, Niger is part of the Hungry Belt, where food crisis and famines are recurrent. At Sahel Response you’ll find lots of data about it.
Niger also has only 33 points in the Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International, which means the country is one of the most corrupt ones. Take a look to the index here.