The emergence of female leadership in southern Mauritania

The Islamic Republic of Mauritania is located between the Arab Maghreb and West Sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore, its small population (3.6 million) includes both Arab-Berbers and Africans of colour from Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, the majority of its population is nomadic and there are certain cases of semi-slavery. Although there are several very interesting factors that could be analysed, I have decided to focus on the issue of women and the work that Alianza por la Solidaridad (APS) is currently doing in this sector.

The situation of women in Mauritania is a very complex issue, so this article only intends to address it partially. The World Bank considers that “labour force participation and the employment rate have not improved, and groups that have not benefited from social progress, such as youth, women, and low-income workers, are increasingly marginalized” (May 2019).

Therefore, it is essential to improve the situation of women. With this finality, APS organized a workshop on female leadership from the 23 to the 27 August, as part of the project «Support to the participation of women in sustainable local development and the emergence of female leadership in southern Mauritania». The workshop brought together 29 participants from the communes of Diowol and Néré. The average age of the participants was 28 years old. It was a group without a high level of education but quite dynamic and, above all, highly motivated, which made learning a lot easier. In Gorgol (communes of Diwol and Néré), women are more and more structured in peasant organizations and are very committed to the development of their localities. However, they need capacity building to play a greater role in local development and the revitalization of women’s associations.

The overall objective of this workshop was to build the capacity of women members of beneficiary cooperatives to lead a group which advocates for women’s rights. This workshop was productive and had several positive effects, including participants’ understanding of gender equality in their working environment; participants’ knowledge of how to develop effective tools to make a commitment to gender mainstreaming in development actions; and participants’ awareness of gender inequalities, their identification and engagement in the fight for gender equality.

The training was conducted using the participatory approach, the women were divided into groups to perform different activities. This enabled a greater understanding of the topics discussed in the workshop and their application. This workshop is expected to have real consequences in the lives of these women and those in their environment who can benefit from word of mouth. It would be a small step towards the difficult but necessary objective of improving the employment and economic situation of women in Southern Mauritania.