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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 November, 2004, 09:39 GMT
Testimony: Former Niger slave
Assibit, 50, describes life as a slave in Niger, where 43,000 people are estimated to be in bonded labour, as the Timidria organisation which helped her escape wins an award in London.

"I was my mistress's slave - that was my identity," says Assibit, 50, who ran away from her master in June of this year.

Assibit, 50, former slave (Photo: Anti-Slavery International)
Assibit is pressing charges against her former master
After walking 30 kilometres to the nearest village, she was taken by locals to the Timidria office in Abalak.

Assibit was born into slavery - as was her mother, her husband and her five children.

The government says it is trying to clamp down on slavery - and has introduced laws so that slave owners can be punished - but still there are estimated to be tens of thousands of people in Niger in bonded labour.

Assibit's whole family served a member of the Touareg tribe.

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.

Shade for mistress

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.

Niger nomads
Traditional part of Niger society
Estimated 43,000 slaves in Niger
Slaves subject to rape, torture and abuse
New law means slave owners can be punished

Assibit prepared lunch and spent the rest of the day collecting water and firewood.

"We were never paid. I was only given one tenth of the camel milk I milked," she said.

He youngest sons ran away and begged her to join them.

"I have never known happiness until this... freedom," Assibit said.

She says she can now go to bed and get up when she wants.

She can milk her goats when she wants.

Since she has escaped, she has secured the release of her mother and daughter.

She is pressing charges against her former master on several counts of slavery.

Timidria is receiving the 2004 Anti-Slavery Award on 3 November at Chatham House in London from Anti-Slavery International for fighting slavery in Niger.

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18 Jan 01 |  Africa
Country profile: Niger
14 Aug 03 |  Country profiles

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