Habi Mint Rabah spent 35 years in slavery, finally managing to escape in 2008. Now she’s put her name on the ballot for a seat in Mauritania’s parliament.
“I became a slave at the age of five. Every day I had to take care of the flock. Every night I was raped by my master. I always believed, without really understanding, that it was normal,” she said.
“I carried the water on my back. I ate the leftover food. If they left nothing, I had nothing to eat. I was sleeping wherever I could find a place – sometimes in the sand, with the goats.”
Those who abused her even forbid Rabah to pray, telling her that she did not deserve to because her soul was inferior.
But now that she has been freed, she’s set her sights on political office. Face2Face Africa reports:
She was able to escape slavery thanks to her brother Bilal Ould Rabah who freed himself and alerted the anti-slavery movement IRA and human rights group, who mobilised her release after 35 years in bondage.
Rabah is one of the black women in Mauritania who have been enslaved by their light-skin country people.
The country is considered the slave-capital of Africa and the practice is still ongoing. The government has denied the existence of slavery amid pressure from the United Nations and other rights groups.
Rights groups have also been under attack for protesting slavery, with the government accusing them of colluding with the West to destabilise the country.
Rabah is vying for a parliamentary seat under the Sawap-Ira coalition. This will be the first time for the abolitionist group to participate in elections after it registered as a political party.
The president of the IRA, Biram Dah Abeid, says that Rabah is an ideal candidate.
“[She’s] a victim of slavery that has been liberated. She is in our ranks, militant, and it is she who will bring the contradiction to the dominant slavery group, in the future Mauritanian Parliament.”
Rabah, for one, says her life has dramatically changed in the last ten years as a free woman.
“Even if sometimes I don’t have anything to eat, at least I have my freedom now. My freedom is the most important thing. I’m like another person now. I’m the master of my own life,” she said.