Each year, the Department of State honors individuals around the world who have devoted their lives to the fight against human trafficking. These individuals are NGO workers, lawmakers, police officers, and concerned citizens who are committed to ending modern slavery. They are recognized for their tireless efforts – despite resistance, opposition, and threats to their lives – to protect victims, punish offenders, and raise awareness of ongoing criminal practices in their countries and abroad.
Over the past three decades, Fatimata M’Baye has fought consistently and courageously for human rights. As an attorney and the president and co-founder of the human rights NGO Mauritanian Association for Human Rights, Association Mauritanienne des Droits de l’Homme (AMDH), Ms. M’Baye has worked to garner support for the rule of law and for efforts to protect disenfranchised and vulnerable individuals, including human trafficking victims.
Ms. M’Baye’s journey hasn’t been an easy one. She has been imprisoned several times and fallen victim to state-sponsored racism against Afro-Mauritanians during 1989-1991. Despite these struggles, Ms. M’Baye prevailed as the first female attorney in Mauritania. Ms. M’Baye’s anti-human trafficking contributions in Mauritania have been of fundamental importance. In 2007 she was a key drafter of the precedent-setting law criminalizing human trafficking, and she is now at the forefront of a campaign to ensure enforcement of the legislation. Thanks to Ms. M’Baye’s brave efforts, Mauritania accomplished a series of firsts from December 2010 to November 2011: the first conviction for child exploitation, the first indictment for slavery practices, and the first prison sentence applied under the 2007 anti-slavery law.