By John D. Sutter, CNN
(CNN) - After reading CNN’s special report on Mauritania, “Slavery’s Last Stronghold,” it may seem like little can be done to end slavery in this West African country, where an estimated 10% to 20% of people are enslaved.
That’s far from true, however. You can be part of the solution. Here’s how:
Donate to a worthy cause
Anti-Slavery International has set up a special donations page for a training center for escaped slaves in Mauritania’s capital, which is run by SOS Slaves. The school, which is featured in the CNN project, teaches about 30 women to sew, cook, braid hair and dye fabric. The hope is that these escaped slaves and their children one day will open their own businesses.
The United Nations also runs slavery-related programs in Mauritania, including a shelter for people who recently have escaped from slavery. Additionally, the UN lobbies the Mauritanian government to enforce a law that criminalized slavery and to address slavery cases. See the UN Trust Fund site for more details. Donations can be earmarked for Mauritania.
You can also send general donations to SOS Slaves, which has been fighting against slavery in Mauritania since 1995, through Anti-Slavery International’s website. That group, in collaboration with international partners, is working to hire attorneys who can represent slaves in court. They also help people escape from slavery, including Moulkheir Mint Yarba, who we featured. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about sending donations for SOS Slaves in particular.
Anti-Slavery International also runs programs in Mauritania that aim to push for the law against slavery to be enforced. The London-based group hires attorneys to represent slaves in court; lobbies the government; runs micro-credit programs for women who are former slaves; and supports the work of non-governmental organizations on the ground.
Another anti-slavery group in Nouakchott, IRA Mauritania, runs a safe house for escaped slaves and pressures the government to address slavery directly. Its leaders say they have been imprisoned and tortured for speaking out. You can contact the group via a representative in Europe to inquire about how to help. That e-mail address is: email@example.com.
Send a message of hope to escaped slaves
CNN iReport is collecting messages of hope for a school of escaped slaves in the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott. Visit the iReport assignment to participate. CNN will edit the messages together and play them for the former slaves who attend the school.
Here’s one message, from a woman who escaped slavery and lives in Ohio:
“The day will come when you are free but you must take a stand. It will not do to sit back and wait. You must rise up against slavery … You won’t get anywhere as a slave. You must demand liberty. No one can give you freedom if you don’t truly want freedom.”
Some activists told CNN that awareness is key to helping Mauritania’s struggle. Many Westerners couldn’t locate Mauritania on a map, much less explain its history of slavery. Learn about the situation and then tell your friends, either in person or online.
You could also tell your national government what you think.