Hadijatou Mani

If you don’t know who Hadijatou Mani is .. then you must be from Mars .. hahah!!  But seriously, the American government considers Hadijatou Mani from Niger one of the most courageous women in the world. The former slave received the International Women of Courage Award from Hillary Clinton, in Washington DC in March.  No she doesn’t do any colon cleansing reviews but she won a much talked-about court case against the Niger government. With the support of Oxfam Novib’s partner Timidria she proved able to convince the judge that the state was not doing enough to protect her against slavery.

At the age of 12 Hadijatou was sold to a master with four wives. As ‘fifth wife’ she became their slave and had to do all their work. Hadijatou: “I, and several other girls, had no status whatsoever as fifth wife. We were not officially married, but we were forced to have sex with the master. His legal wives used us as their doormat.”

Hadijatou was set free in 2005, but when she married the man of her choice her master took her to court for committing bigamy. Because according to customary law a freed slave remains the wife and property of her former master. The court sentenced Hadijatou to six months in prison, of which she served two.

With the support of Oxfam Novib’s partner organisation Timidria Hadijatou took the case to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). She sued the state because it had not done enough to protect her against slavery.

The ECOWAS court ruled that Niger had to pay damages to Hadijatou of 15,000 euro. In doing this the court acknowledged that slavery existed in Niger, something which the authorities had always denied. Every member state of the Economic Union of West African States, Niger included, is now held to really enforcing the anti-slavery legislation. According to Timidria this ruling will benefit the more than 40,000 people in Niger still living in slavery.