June 30, 2016

ABA ROLI’s Project to Promote the Civic Rights of Marginalized Groups in Mauritania

The American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) is implementing a program funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), to build civil society capacity to promote the civic and political rights of marginalized groups in Mauritania. Through this project, ABA ROLI is establishing a consortium of local partners to assist marginalized groups — particularly former and current victims of slavery — in obtaining civil registration and accessing justice in remote locations.


As of June 30, 2016, ABA ROLI-trained, community-based paralegals had provided services to 176 community members in Riadh, Arafat, Rosso, Kaédi, Sélibaby and Néma.

Our local partners, Initiative pour la Résurgence du mouvement Abolitionniste (IRA-Mauritanie), Association Mauritanienne des droits de l’Homme (AMDH), and Association des Femmes Chefs de Famille (AFCF) are prominent local nongovernmental organizations actively working to end slavery and marginalization in Mauritania.

Our strategy focuses on training community-based paralegals to provide basic legal and administrative assistance, including helping community members as they seek to obtain their legal identity.

As of June 30, 2016, ABA ROLI-trained, community-based paralegals had provided services to 176 community members in Riadh, Arafat, Rosso, Kaédi, Sélibaby and Néma. The majority of the cases related to civil registration.

Mariem Cheikh, a young Haratine community-based paralegal trained under this project, spends most of her time working at the Arafat counseling center and accompanying community members to judicial and administrative bodies.

Cheikh believes ABA ROLI’s project is critical to empowering members of her community to access basic services and realize their rights, particularly those groups who have been historically marginalized. Cheikh recently helped Aicha, a Haratine woman, to obtain identity cards for her two undocumented children, as their father refused to recognize them. Cheikh says that delivery of civil status in Mauritania is related to all aspects of the life of the individual and many children are not able to go to school due to lack of vital documents.

“Individuals without proper legal identity are more likely to experience poverty and the consequence is that their own children cannot access vital documents. This contributes to the marginalization of generations and people who are unable to flourish in society,” Cheikh said.

Helping marginalized groups in her community is much more than a job, “not only do we provide legal assistance,” said Cheikh, “we give them back hope.”

To learn more about our work in Mauritania, please contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org