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Mauritania Table of Contents



During the period of civilian government, women were most successful in fulfilling their political demands through the party. Although the constitution guaranteed equality before the law and full rights of political participation, traditional practices effectively denied women any major role in political life. To elicit the support of women, the PPM created the National Union of Mauritanian Women in 1961. At first oriented only toward such typically feminine issues as health, nutrition, and education, by 1964 it had become the women's political arm of the PPM and was renamed the National Women's Movement (Mouvement National Féminin). The organization of the women's movement paralleled that of the PPM, with local committees, sections, and federations, and was headed by an elected bureau. At each level in the hierarchy, an official of the women's organization participated as an ex officio member of the respective PPM bureau. Although most women were far from achieving political equality with men, they were able to bring about change in response to some of their demands.

Over the years, several political functions helped to improve the lot of women. The PPM party congress at Kaédi in 1964 condemned abuses of divorce and doweries. The congress at `Ayoûn el `Atroûs in 1966 made provisions for the support of dependent children who remained with their mothers following a divorce and created the Superior Council for Women (Conseil Supérieur des Femmes), which operated the National Women's Movement. At the Nouakchott party congress in 1968, women's issues received significant attention. The 300 participants, including 11 women, called for the obligatory registration of marriages and divorces to protect women, the enactment of laws to discourage polygyny, limits on the size of dowries, and a code to protect women's rights. In the 1971 elections, two women were elected to the previously all-male National Assembly, and one, Aissatou Kane, was named minister of health and social affairs, becoming the first woman to serve in the government. She remained in office until the 1978 coup.

The pace of change improved under the military government as more women enrolled in schools and joined the labor force. In May 1987, in what was a remarkable step for Mauritania, President Taya named three women to cabinet-level posts to "correct countless managerial mistakes committed in the past." Khadijatou Bint Ahmed of Boutilimit was appointed minister of mines and industries. Lalla Mariam Bint Moulaye was appointed associate director of the presidential cabinet, and N'Deye Tabar Fall became general secretary of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs.

Data as of June 1988