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Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Poverty drives the unsuspecting poor into the hands of traffickers

Published reports & articles from 2000 to 2025                              

Republic of Niger

Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking near last on the United Nations Development Fund index of human development. It is a landlocked, Sub-Saharan nation, whose economy centers on subsistence crops, livestock, and some of the world's largest uranium deposits. Drought cycles, desertification, and strong population growth have undercut the economy.

A drought and locust infestation in 2005 led to food shortages for as many as 2.5 million Nigeriens.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Niger

Niger is a source, transit, and destination country for children and women trafficked for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Caste-based slavery practices, rooted in ancestral master-slave relationships, continue primarily in the northern part of the country. An estimated 8,800 to 43,000 Nigeriens live under conditions of traditional hereditary slavery. Children within Niger are trafficked for forced begging by religious instructors, forced labor in gold mines, domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, and possibly for forced labor in agriculture and stone quarries.. - U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009  Check out a later country report here and possibly a full TIP Report here


CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Niger.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Human Trafficking are of particular interest to you.  Would you like to write about Forced-Labor?  Debt Bondage? Prostitution? Forced Begging? Child Soldiers? Sale of Organs? etc.  On the other hand, you might choose to include precursors of trafficking such as poverty and hunger. There is a lot to the subject of Trafficking.  Scan other countries as well.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.

HELP for Victims

Ministry of Labor and Civil Service
20 73 29 43
Country code: 227-



Africa: Slavery lives on

Liesl Louw, News24, 2 September 2004

[accessed 12 March 2011]

[accessed 13 June 2017]

Last year, the Niger government eventually passed a law banning slavery outright. Under this law, a slavery conviction caries a ten-year prison term or a 1m CFA franc (about R10 000) fine.  But tremendous poverty, illiteracy and desperate circumstances in which many people live make it virtually impossible to eradicate slavery.


*** ARCHIVES ***

Timidria’s Fight Against Human Trafficking In Niger

Ayesha Swaray, The Borgen Project, 19 February 2021

[accessed 23 February 2021]

OVERVIEW -- Ilguilas Weila, a Niger native, founded Timidria in 1991. Together with Anti-Slavery International, Timidria has been standing at the forefront seeking to protect more than 40,000 lost, unidentified and identified victims of inherited slavery and trafficking. This is its printed testimony:

“It clearly emerged from this review that the failure of slavery prosecutions had less to do with litigation itself than to external elements, particularly the influence of traditional chiefs and social hierarchies on judges’ decisions and disputations between customary and statutory law.”

This is a credible statement depicting the Nigerien government’s failure to identify, prosecute and convict traffickers, as it has failed to identify the ones among them.

Combating Child Marriage In Niger

Montana Moore, The Borgen Project, 17 October 2020

[accessed 23 February 2021]

According to UNICEF, married women become dependent on their husbands because their sense of independence is taken away. However, women are, more often than not, engaging in marriage during their teenage years before they are even fully mature, which would explain why their sense of independence is stricken away so early on.

Education plays an important role in child marriages in the country of Niger because the lack of knowledge makes a woman more vulnerable to risky decisions. According to UNICEF, “The link between education and the prevalence of child marriage is particularly evident in Niger: 81% of women aged 20-24 with no education and 63% with only primary education were married or in union at age 18.” The lack of children attending school is a primary reason for combatting child marriage in Niger.

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Niger

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 20 June 2021]


Forced labor remained a problem, especially in domestic work and agriculture. A 2016 study conducted by the National Institute of Statistics, in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, concluded that victims of forced labor were characteristically young (age 17 on average) and predominantly male (62.5 percent), although adult victims were also identified. The study found poverty and associated misery and unacceptable living conditions to explain why victims accepted offers that put them into forced labor situations.

The Tuareg, Zarma, Fulani, Toubou, and Arab ethnic minorities throughout the country, particularly in remote northern and western regions and along the border with Nigeria, practiced a traditional form of caste-based servitude or bonded labor. Persons born into a traditionally subordinate caste or descent-based slavery sometimes worked without pay for those above them in the social order. Such persons were forced to work without pay for their masters throughout their lives, primarily herding cattle, working on farmland, or working as domestic servants. Estimates of the numbers of persons involved in traditional slavery varied widely.


Child labor was prevalent, with children as young as five engaged in labor. Most rural children regularly worked with their families from an early age, helping in the fields, pounding grain, tending animals, gathering firewood and water, and doing similar tasks. Some families kept children out of school to work or beg. Children were also forced into prostitution and domestic servitude, artisanal mining, and forced criminality.

There were reports that loosely organized clandestine international networks forced young boys from neighboring countries into manual labor or begging and young girls to work as domestic servants, usually with some degree of consent or complicity of their families.

The practice of forced begging by talibes–Quranic schoolchildren–where some Quranic schoolteachers forced their young male pupils to work as beggars remained widespread, with a degree of complicity from parents.

Child labor occurred in hereditary slavery and largely unregulated artisanal gold-mining operations as well as in trona (a source of sodium carbonate compounds), salt, and gypsum mines. The artisanal gold mines at Komabangou, Tillabery Region, continued to use many children, particularly adolescent boys and some girls, under hazardous health and safety conditions. The use of cyanide in these mines further complicated the health hazards. Komabangou miners, other residents, and human rights groups expressed deep concern regarding poisoning, but the practice remained widespread. Children also performed dangerous tasks in cattle herding. Children, especially boys and girls in the Arab, Zarma, Fulani, Tuareg, and Toubou ethnic minorities, continued to be exploited as slaves and endure conditions of bonded labor, particularly in distant western and northern regions and along the border with Nigeria.

Children born into a traditionally subordinate caste or descent-based slavery became the property of their masters and could be passed from one owner to another as gifts or part of a dowry.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 8 July 2020]


Although slavery was criminalized in 2003 and banned in the 2010 constitution, it remains a problem in Niger. Estimates of the number of enslaved people vary widely, but is generally counted in the tens of thousands. Niger remains a source, transit point, and destination for human trafficking.

2017 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, US Dept of Labor, 2018

[accessed 22 April 2019]

[accessed 4 May 2020]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

[page 749]

Children in Niger, especially boys and girls from the Arab, Djerma, Peulh, Tuareg, and Toubou ethnic minorities, continue to be exploited as slaves and endure slave-like practices, particularly in distant western and northern regions and along the border with Nigeria. Some children are born into slavery, while others are born free, but remain in a dependent status and are forced to work with their parents for their former masters in exchange for food, money, and lodging. (23; 4; 3) A particular form of slavery in Niger is the wahaya practice, in which men buy girls born into slavery, typically between ages 9 and 11, as “fifth wives.” Child slaves, including those involved in the practice of wahaya, are forced to work long hours as cattle herders, agricultural workers, or domestic workers, and are often sexually exploited. (3; 10; 24; 20; 7; 4; 17; 18) As with those involved in hereditary slavery, the children of wahaya wives are considered slaves as well and are passed from one owner to another as gifts or as part of dowries. (13; 25; 4; 17)

In Niger, it is also a traditional practice to send boys (talibés) to Koranic teachers (marabouts) to receive religious education. Some of these boys, however, are forced by their teachers to perform manual labor or to beg on the streets and surrender the money they earn. (2; 3; 4; 17; 21)

During the year, Boko Haram attacked numerous villages in the Diffa region along Niger’s border with Nigeria, which caused an influx of Nigerian refugees and Nigerien internally displaced persons and strained the government’s resources for addressing child labor. Evidence suggests that Boko Haram forcibly recruited Nigerien children for use in armed conflict in the Diffa region. (26; 19; 7) In addition, refugee and internally displaced children may have difficulty accessing education, which makes them particularly vulnerable to engaging in the worst forms of child labor, including recruitment by non-state armed groups. (23; 10; 25; 19).

African Slavery and Trafficking

Sarah Williams, Voice of America VOA News

[accessed 29 August 2011]

[scroll down, for English]

Early in March, the government of Niger canceled a ceremony to give 7,000 slaves their freedom. The human rights group Timidria planned to release the slaves in a region near Niger's border with Mali, but none of them appeared for the ceremony.  The organization said Niger's government intimidated the slaves to keep them from showing up, a charge the government denies.  Niger officially banned slavery two years ago, but human rights groups say about 43,000 people remain in bondage.

Still with us - A botched release of slaves in Niger points up an ugly truth: bondage is alive and well around the world

The Economist, Mar 9th 2005

[accessed 2 September 2014]

Anti-Slavery International, a London-based human rights group, estimates that 43,000 slaves are held in Niger, which the United Nations reckons to be the second-least-developed country in the world. Slaves in the landlocked west African country form a stigmatised, closed class. Even freed slaves carry the taint of their hereditary status, and their former masters or parents’ masters may claim some or all of their income, property and dowries.

Niger Begins Enforcement Of Ban On Slavery

Sarah Left, The Guardian, 5 March 2005

[accessed 12 March 2011]

Around 7,000 people living as slaves in Niger will be told today that they are free for the first time in their lives, as the government begins to enforce a law banning the practice of slavery.

The chief of the In Ates region will free all slaves in the area under his control, where entrenched slavery means 95 % of the population are owned and controlled by the other 5%.

Slaves in Niger are generally born into an established slave class that works without pay for masters who control every aspect of their lives. Babies are taken from their mothers to prevent bonds being formed in families, and sexual assault and rape are widespread. Slaves are given as gifts or inherited among the slave-owning class.

Slavery in Niger

October 26, 2004

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 9 September 2011]

[scroll down]

Almost 50,000 people still live as slaves in Niger.

Slavery has always been practised by the rulling classes in Niger and Northern Nigeria who still have an interest in keeping slavery in tact. Timidria's report found that

Slaves are owned and controlled by their masters, receiving a meagre amount of food and a place to sleep in return for their labour, the study found. "The master decides who a slave marries and whether their children go to school. Many of those interviewed in the survey had also been subjected to violence, rape, degrading treatment and threats."

Testimony: Former Niger slave

BBC News, 3 November 2004

[accessed 12 December 2010]

Assibit, 50, describes life as a slave in Niger, where 43,000 people are estimated to be in bonded labour.   Assibit was born into slavery - as was her mother, her husband and her five children.

Assibit would begin work at 0530 - pounding millet and milking the camels.    She would then prepare breakfast for her master and his family - she and her family ate the leftovers.   While her husband and sons tended the cattle and camels, she and her daughter did all the household chores.   These included moving the heavy tent four times a day to ensure her mistress could sit in the shade.   Assibit prepared lunch and spent the rest of the day collecting water and firewood.

Slavery in Niger: Historical, legal and contemporary perspectives [PDF]

Anti-Slavery International & Association Timidira,  Edited by Galy kadir Abdelkader,  March 2004

[accessed 2 September 2014]

[page 13]  INTRODUCTION - This study is aimed at contributing to the setting up of the necessary mechanisms to eradicate slavery in Niger. Indeed, it may seem absurd that at the dawn of the third millennium, a country like Niger, which is well known for being amongst the lowest ranking country according to the human development index, is being called to account on an issue such as slavery, a form of human social organisation that was thought to have been eradicated with the establishment of democracy. And yet slavery is present in the daily life of Niger. The issue is not to find a definition of slavery, but rather to free hundreds of men and women from the shackles of slavery. For them, each day brings its lot of humiliation, physical suffering, torture and uncertainty.

The Anti-Slavery Award

Anti-Slavery International

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 9 September 2011]

PREVIOUS ANTI-SLAVERY AWARD WINNERS – Timidria received the 2004 Anti-Slavery Award for its pioneering work against slavery in Niger. It spearheaded the anti-slavery movement in Niger, raising awareness of the issue and helping former slaves to integrate into society and successfully campaigning for amendments to the in Penal Code in 2003, which defines, prohibits and punishes slavery. The organisation is campaigning for the law to be implemented and for survivors of slavery to be given the help they need to rebuild their lives.

Drama as Niger slaves are freed

BBC News, 19 December, 2003

[accessed 12 December 2010]

In May this year, acting under pressure Niger's parliament banned the keeping or trading in slaves but the law has not been fully implemented.  Local human rights group say there are still some 20,000 slaves in Niger.

According to a local anti-slavery organisation, Timidria, the victims are usually aged between 14 and 25.   Males slaves are forced to work in farms and tender cattle, while women are confined to domestic duties.   The organisation says many female slaves are raped and subjected to other forms of sexual abuse by their masters.   Men who disobey orders are flogged or in serious instances castrated.

Slavery in Niger

United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, 28th Session, Geneva, 16-20 June 2003

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 9 September 2011]

Signs, such as the wearing of particular ankle bracelets, are used to identify those of a slave caste as being distinct from the general population. In this way those born into the slave caste are constantly subjected to social discrimination and it is extremely difficult for them to move beyond their given status, for example in terms of work or marriage. Overt violence or coercion are not always required in order to ensure that slaves continue to function within the traditional social structures, which prescribe them a subordinate status. Social conditioning, societal pressure, lack of education or a perceived lack of alternatives may be sufficient to retain control over the individual.

NIGER: Survey finds over 870,000 are still slaves

Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Niamey, 13 May 2003

[accessed 9 March 2015]

Although Niger recently passed new tougher laws against slavery, more than 870,000 people - about seven percent of the country's population - still live in conditions of forced labour, according to Timidria, a local human rights group.

In Africa, Niger, Mauritania and Sudan are considered the main countries were slavery persists.   Many slave-owners interviewed by Timidria said the forced labourers were an inheritance and a responsibility.   "We inherited these slaves from our parents, but I did not know it was slavery", the organisation quoted one Tuareg chief as saying. "They are victims who don't want to leave us".   According to university professor, El Back Adam, Niger's slaves refuse to leave their masters despite the terrible conditions in which they live, because at least "they have a roof under their head and something to eat."

Niger 'slave' flees castration

Idy Baraou, BBC News, Niamey, 4 September, 2002

[accessed 12 December 2010]

DISOBEDIENCE - Talking about his ordeal, Mr Mohamet explained that he was being whipped everyday because he was suspected of wanting to rebel against his master.  He said he had recently been sold to a new owner, known for his cruelty towards his slaves. His new master accused him of rebellion and disobedience.  Mr Mohamet said if he had not escaped, he would have been castrated this week.  His master tried to control his slaves by castrating them or using amputation.

ICFTU Releases Report On Labour Standards

Australian Council of Trade Uniions ACTU, 24 September 2003

[accessed 2 September 2014]

The situation concerning child labour is alarming. The vast majority of children in Niger (70 percent) work, whereas around 40 percent of Senegalese children work. Most are active in subsistence agriculture and urban informal activities. In Niger child labour in mining occurs under extremely hazardous conditions.

Rescued Niger slaves 'tortured'

Idy Baraou, BBC News, Niamey, 7 December, 2001

[accessed 12 December 2010]

Aid workers have been giving details of the physical and psychological trauma suffered by 10 slaves rescued on Monday in the Tahoua region of northern Niger.  One human rights official, Iglass Weiller, said the 10 men, women and children, who had been slaves all their lives, had suffered torture and starvation.  He told a press conference in the capital Niamey on Wednesday that the owner of the slaves - who has not yet been apprehended - had raped the women and girls regularly.

NIGER: IRIN Focus on slavery

Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN News

[accessed 9 March 2015]

One of them, Oumou Raicha, told Timidria that for many years, she was repeatedly raped by Waglassane. "Since I was a small child, my master used to force me to sleep with him," she was quoted as saying. "I had many suitors, but the master opposed my marriage on many occasions. What I want now is to have a family and live freely."  She had three daughters by her master, two of whom died. The third, eight-year-old Aggada, was taken from her by Waglassane and given to his "legitimate" daughter as a "marriage gift".

Child labor and child slaves

Dr. Dipak Basu, Professor in Economics at Nagasaki University in Japan -- World Socialist Web Site WSWS, 7 January 2000

[accessed 12 December 2010]

NIGER MINING INDUSTRY - Niger, one of the poorest countries in Africa, provides a typical example of child exploitation. Uranium, gold, phosphates, tin, coal, limestone, salt and gypsum mining are prominent in Niger. In Madaoua, a major gypsum mining town in Niger, 43 percent of the mining workers are children. Of these 6.5 percent are 6 to 9 years of age and 16 percent are of 10 to 13 years of age. These children are exposed to innumerable safety hazards. During extractions they are at risk of injury from their tools and from exhaustion as they have to cover a huge area in search for gypsum. Other risks are snake and scorpion bites and foot injuries, as most of them are barefoot, from stones and wood splinters.

Liptako is a major gold mining area in Niger. Gold ores are obtained in difficult and dangerous conditions, as the method of work is primitive without any source of mechanical or electrical or any other power. Children are fully involved in most of the activities in gold production. 17 percent of the workers are children. They are also involved in related activities like transport, drug selling and prostitution. In the extraction phase, children are used as carriers of ores and waste products to the surface.

The child laborers manually carry sacks that weigh 5-10 kg. In addition to the danger of falling rocks, the children can also fall down mine shafts. They are exposed to risks such as explosions, asphyxiation, dust, dermatoid, flooding and drowning in the mines. They also face very high or very low temperatures, dangerous air and space, bilharziosis due to polluted water where they wash gold ores and dangerous materials used in mining and processing. The nearest medical facilities are 60 km away.

Child Labour Persists Around The World: More Than 13 Percent Of Children 10-14 Are Employed

International Labour Organisation (ILO) News, Geneva, 10 June 1996

[accessed 4 September 2011]

[accessed 8 February 2018]

"Today's child worker will be tomorrow's uneducated and untrained adult, forever trapped in grinding poverty. No effort should be spared to break that vicious circle", says ILO Director-General Michel Hansenne.

Among the countries with a high percentage of their children from 10-14 years in the work force are: Mali, 54.5 percent; Burkina Faso, 51; Niger and Uganda, both 45; Kenya, 41.3; Senegal, 31.4; Bangladesh, 30.1; Nigeria, 25.8; Haiti, 25; Turkey, 24; Côte d'Ivoire, 20.5; Pakistan, 17.7; Brazil, 16.1; India, 14.4; China, 11.6; and Egypt, 11.2.


Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 10 February 2020]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – Trafficking in persons generally was conducted by small operators who promised well‑paid employment in the country. Victims, primarily from neighboring countries, were escorted through the formalities of entering the country and found that their employment options were restricted to poorly paid domestic work or prostitution. Victims had to use a substantial portion of their income to reimburse the persons who brought them to the country for the cost of the trip. Compliance was enforced by "contracts," which were signed by illiterate victims before they departed their countries of origin; alternatively, traffickers seized victim's travel documents. A local NGO also reported that some rural children were victims of domestic trafficking in which the victim (or his/her family) was promised a relatively decent job only to be placed in a home to work as a servant.

2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Niger

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 22 September 2005

[accessed 19 February 2019]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - UNICEF estimated that 70.1 percent of children ages 5 to 14 years were working in Niger in 2000.  Children work primarily in the informal and agricultural sectors.  Children in rural areas mainly work on family farms gathering water or firewood, pounding grain, tending animals, or working in the fields.  Children as young as 6 years old are reported to work on grain farms in the southwest.  Children also shine shoes; guard cars; work as apprentices for artisans, tailors, and mechanics; perform domestic work; and work as porters and street beggars.  Children work under hazardous conditions in small trona, salt, gypsum, and gold mines and quarries; prostitution; and drug trafficking;[2969] as well as in slaughterhouses.

Niger serves as a source and transit country for children trafficked into for domestic service and commercial labor, including commercial sexual exploitation.  Some Koranic teachers indenture young boys and send them to beg in the streets.  Forced domestic service and commercial sexual exploitation of girls is a problem in Niger.

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