I soon discovered the woman I was looking for: Salimata Lam.The backbone of anti-slavery Lam is a slim woman of average height and elegant movement.A holistic fight against social injustice It is Ramadan when I visit and the temperature in Nouakchott has risen to its typical summer high of somewhere around 43 degrees.Although I have fasted through plenty of holy months since I converted to Islam some 20 years ago, the extreme heat here is making me realise that I may need water.But Lam is modest and says of her work: "The commitment and trust in the correctness of what one is doing will always give you the courage to do and continue." Sarah Mathewson, the Africa programme coordinator of Anti-Slavery International, which works with SOS Esclaves to combat slavery, is a little more forthcoming about just what it is Lam contributes: "She is the backbone of SOS Esclaves.She runs the project in a very quiet way behind the scenes. We can never raise enough money for the salary she deserves, but she just carries on, working all kinds of hours and making all sorts of personal sacrifices to do this work she believes in." Lam's passion for justice is an asset to a country with a higher prevalence of modern slavery than any other on the planet.That appeal has never taken place, though Anti-Slavery International is part of a coalition that plans to take the case to regional court.
It is a country that only got its first working ATM in 2004, a country whose television and radio stations are entirely state-owned, a country where, according to UNESCO, 67 percent of adult females can neither read nor write.
And in November 2014, three anti-slavery activists - Biram Dah Abeid, Brahim Bilal Ramdane, and Dijby Sow - were convicted of "membership in an unrecognised organisation, taking part in an unauthorised assembly, failing to comply with police orders, and resisting arrest".
It is not the first time such high-profile activists have been arrested in a country with a history of detaining and intimidating anti-slavery campaigners.
According to the Walk Free Foundation's Global Slavery Index, Mauritania, with its population of just 3.8 million, has between 140,000 and 160,000 slaves.
That's about four percent of the population, and it is, according to many organisations, including Lam's, a rather conservative estimate: they point to a figure closer to 15 percent.