Thursday, Apr. 30, 2009

Hadizatou Mani

Facing power with truth, demanding justice and making change possible are things that are easier said than done. It takes courage, resilience and a belief in one's own voice and truth — qualities that Hadizatou Mani, a woman who was sold as a slave at the age of 12, possesses, not out of her wealth or education but out of her simple and most essential belief in human dignity and women's rights to equality and justice.

Mani, now in her mid-20s, was sold into slavery for $500 in 1996. Her home country, Niger, outlawed slavery in 2003, but the practice still continues and manifests itself through the trafficking of mostly women and children — not just in Niger but in many other parts of the world as well.

It is not easy to know you are worth more than what you are being told, to know you have the right to stand up against injustice, to know the world is still beautiful and safe despite its horrors. Not too many of us have the constitution to stand against power as Mani did when she took her country to a West African court for failing to enforce its own laws and denying her right to freedom. "I knew that this was the only way to protect my child from suffering the same fate as myself. Nobody deserves to be enslaved," she said. And she proved it when she won her case in 2008.

Salbi is an author and the founder and CEO of Women for Women International, a global nonprofit assisting female survivors of war