There are an estimated 133,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Niger (GSI 2018). Niger is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Traditional slavery practices perpetuated by politically powerful tribal leaders continue primarily in the northern part of the country. Nigerien boys are subjected to forced labour, including forced begging, within the country and in neighbouring countries, especially by corrupt marabouts. Loosely organized clandestine networks may also place Nigerien girls into domestic servitude. Nigerien children are subjected to forced labour in gold, salt, trona, and gypsum mines; agriculture; stone quarries; and manufacturing within the country.
Ghali had been trapped in bonded labour since early childhood. He was forced to work long hours with little food, subjected to physical and mental violence. Ghali tells of his path out of slavery with the help of Anti-slavery partners Timidria.
I am 70 years old and I lived as a slave for most of my life. From my early childhood I worked all day caring for my master’s livestock. All I ate each day was milk from the sheep I tended. I would watch my master’s children at their studies each day, but I did not receive an education.
There was no mercy as a slave. If I made a mistake my masters would punish me physically and mentally. They said that God hated me and that he would punish me, and I could not go to heaven. I was utterly convinced that my right to enter paradise depended on my masters’ will. That’s why I was so obedient to them!
Late at night, I would meet my friends who were also slaves. We’d dance and sing to unwind and forget about the hard labour we had carried out during the day and would have to carry out again the following day.
When I heard of Timidria’s (Anti-Slavery’s partners in Niger) work, I reached out to them. The staff were really reassuring; they said that if I decided to leave, no master would dare come to force me to return, as they would have in the past. Since I left, I have been making my own living. I was even able to build my own home.
I was especially sceptical toward school, because of everything they had told me during all these years. I thought it was a source of disbelief in God
One day, I met with representatives from the school. I realised that we had been greatly deceived. Since then, I discovered that the masters were preventing us from enrolling our children in school just to keep us in the dark and maintain their control over us.
Today, I feel like a fulfilled man who enjoys his freedom. I freed myself from all forms of human submission and psychological domination. I now hope to send my grandchildren to school, to give them a better future. I do not wish my offspring to live with the effects of slavery.
Narrative provided by Anti-Slavery International