Children in Mauritania
Mauritania is a largely agricultural and pastoral country in the North-Western Saharan desert. As of 2020, only 47.3% of people had access to electricity. In 2021, around 15% of women were first married at 15, and in 2019, 156,142 children of primary school age were out of school. The country’s increasing poverty affects women and children in Mauritania. Here are five organizations seeking to aid women and children in Mauritania.

5 Organizations Helping Women and Children in Mauritania

  1. Association of Female Heads of Households (AFCF): This organization advances women’s and children’s rights in Mauritania by focusing on reform laws and preventive policies. Together with the Women’s Learning Partnership, it is able to help all people by passing effective legislation. AFCF focuses on campaigning for reform laws that prevent trafficking, violence, abuse and slavery, which predominantly affect women and children. AFCF had a huge success in its campaign to implement gender quotas in the Mauritanian parliament. AFCF’s programs directly supported the “election of 99 women including 6 women mayors, a female head of the Urban Community of Nouakchott and dozens of women ministers.” There is a growing amount of slavery prevention groups in West Africa that the organization has been able to support.
  2. United Nations Population Fund Mauritania (UNFPA): UNFPA helps women and children in Mauritania by increasing reproductive health access and initiatives. The programs UNFA supports promote gender equality and the organization has also aided in developing national plans for reproductive health and maternal mortality. UNFPA has been able to increase Mauritania’s ability to address health concerns such as HIV prevention. UNFPA protected 1,000 girls from genital mutilation. The organization trained 229 personnel in clinical rape treatments and created 16 obstetric facilities that have emergency care.
  3. Mauritanian Council for Business Women: This organization advances women’s economic mobility. It encourages participation in the business and finance sectors. It gives women business owners the opportunity to present themselves at regional and local exhibitions. Its goal is to promote further gender equality by encouraging female entrepreneurship. The organization also conducts campaigns for equality politically. By encouraging stronger relations for women in business and by giving women a platform to expand their businesses, women and children in Mauritania receive greater opportunities and are less likely to experience the inequalities both groups may face.
  4. MindLeaps: This is a unique organization that hosts dance classes in schools in Mauritania. It has trained psychologists to address students’ diverse set of needs. In 2017, MindLeaps ran a three-month program of dance classes for 117 street children and juvenile offenders in the capital city of Nouakchott. Since then, it has expanded to other towns and cities in Mauritania. It estimates that around 70% of its students end up being in the top 20% of their educational classes. The time spent in these dance classes builds social and emotional skills necessary for children to develop. The organization tracks each student individually and helps to foster stronger skills. MindLeaps has a 0% dropout rate and prides itself on the strong community building it promotes and its educational pursuits.
  5. Youth and Hope: Houleye Thiam founded Youth and Hope in 2011 in response to the lack of organization and funding in rural Mauritanian schools. It focuses primarily on populations of schools that include black Mauritanians, who are sometimes former refugees who have come back to their homeland. As of 2021, it serves repatriated villages. Its four target villages include Goural, Gawdal, Dolly and Houdalaye. Its goal is to make sure every student in the target villages has enough supplies to study five or more subjects. It has also committed to delivering supplies at least twice a year. The nonprofit acts largely on donations. Improving education efforts can largely improve the situation for the future women and children of Mauritania, as it promotes greater mobility in Mauritania.

Looking Ahead

Despite the challenges that women and children in Mauritania have faced, these five organizations are making a difference. As aid organizations continue their work in Mauritania, it is likely that quality of life will improve for all.

– Anna Richardson
Photo: Flickr

In the poorer regions of Africa, children are unable to go to school. Developing and post-conflict countries struggle to obtain basic necessities and are sometimes unable to provide children with an education. The result of this is an illiterate generation that will eventually turn to violence in revolt against their continued dependence on aid. MindLeaps is a nonprofit humanitarian organization that seeks to break that cycle, and in fact had successes, by offering these children dance lessons.

The Situation

In Sub-Saharan Africa, 32 percent of the youth do not receive an education and are illiterate. Usually, people blame this on a lack of access to schooling; however, this claim is inaccurate. MindLeaps discovered that the underlying causes are unstable homes and living conditions, education fees while schools propose free education and even apathy towards children. In some cases, children who do have the means to attend school drop out before completing their education, believing employment and a bright future for themselves is impossible. This belief stems from their lack of a supportive home life and struggles for basic necessities, as well as the influence of crime, prostitution and drugs of the elder generations. Aware of this, MindLeaps saves children by reaching out to them with a means to improve their academic situation through dance lessons.

The Program

Studies showed that dancing and movement are important in the development of learning skills, creativity and self-esteem, as well as the improvement of memory and cognitive thinking. With this research, MindLeaps developed a dance curriculum for at-risk youths in Africa, focusing on both cognitive and non-cognitive skills that they would not have developed otherwise. Students who graduated from MindLeaps have in fact shown significant cognitive and behavioral development in functions such as memorization, language, discipline and teamwork. Once dancing strengthens their minds, the children are then able to move on academically, earning sponsorships and scholarships from the organization and the dance instructors.

The Misty Copeland Scholarship

One of these instructors is Misty Copeland, a well-renowned American ballerina who came from poverty, as well. Copeland works with MindLeaps as an advisor, ambassador and dance teacher, as well as participating in their scholarship program, the International Artists Fund. In 2015, she traveled to Rwanda to help MindLeaps launch its girls’ program and established the Misty Copeland Scholarship, which provides a top dance student the opportunity to attend boarding school. Three years later, Misty returned to Rwanda and found that a student who had received that scholarship, a boy named Ali, had gone to achieve major academic success.

MindLeaps’ Achievements

Ali was not the only one to achieve success through MindLeaps. In January 2017, the organization reintegrated over 50 students into formal education in Rwanda. In March of that same year, more than half of those students ranked in the top 10 positions of their respective classes. MindLeaps’ dance lessons saved more than 600 at-risk children from illiteracy and potentially violent futures in 2017 alone. More than 3,500 children have completed the MindLeaps’ program across six different countries since 2014. The organization has seen a 0 percent drop-out rate for students whom it helped move on to formal education.

In short, Mindleaps saves children in slums and homeless children in underground tunnels thanks to dance lessons. Dance lessons offers them an opportunity to lead a life away from poverty. Developing their cognitive skills and earning their educations, enables these children to help and provide for their families, which in turn spares the next generation from illiteracy and hardship.

– Yael Litenatsky
Photo: Wikimedia Commons