Houleye Kane: a brave heart can accomplish anything

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Houleye Kane, 39, is a journalist and activist working to support young people, and especially women, and is a warrior whose words and actions come from the heart. She is inspiring other women to start venturing into field reporting in Mauritania and condemning violence and injustice.
Profile by Emmanuel de Solère Stintzy.


Speaking from the heart, awesome and formidable. When she raises her hand to speak five minutes before a session ends, any trainer who knows Houleye Kane is gripped between the fear of not being able to cut her off and the joy of hearing her deliver her impassioned and truthful message once again. But she wasn't always this way.
Houleye was shy as a child. She was one of the best students in her class, but simply went to school and returned home without socialising much. She loved to draw and sing, but her greatest passion was reading comics, recalls Selly Kane, Houleye's older sister.

Houleye adds: When I stepped out of my comfort zone, I loved it when people took photos or videos of me. Back home, I would try to copy the Senegalese news presenters. Some of my family used to say to me: 'You're going to be a great journalist!'
Yet Houleye's protective mother refused to let her leave for France after she had completed her baccalaureate in literature. Instead, she enrolled Houleye in a business law course at Dakar Bourguiba University, closer to home in neighbouring Senegal. But there was no stopping her… After three years of relatively unfulfilling higher education, Houleye Kane began to pursue her dream: I worked at the agency run by Dia Cheikh Tidiane, my former French teacher and director of the daily Le Rénovateur newspaper. When my first article on the subject of drugs in schools was published and featured on a number of websites, I was so happy that I brought some of the papers home to my family. Everyone was delighted, especially in 2012 when I started to appear on Sahel TV!

Journalism as a woman: a daily battle

Appointed Head of the Audiovisual division at Mauritania's National Arts Institute in 2021, Houleye oversees projects, supports the Film department and assists with the audiovisual production training programmes. However, being a female journalist in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania continues to prove a daily battle.


Moussa Ely Cheikh Traoré, aka "Moussa VFC PROD", has been reporting alongside Houleye since 2016 and backs this up: She's a warrior who gives no quarter in the field! We might have two or three arguments whenever we are filming, but then we always get back on good terms. But Houleye always keeps her eyes on the prize, even when people are hurling verbal abuse at us in the street. There are many Mauritanians in Nouakchott who resent women taking the spotlight. They would rather have us stay at home and cook

Houleye delivers a quick-fire retort whenever this happens: I tell them that anyone can be a journalist. Men and women! She believes her animosity towards injustice and violence against women was "initially triggered" by her experiences of growing up in a polygamous family in which her mother took care of practically everything: I remember her working as a civil servant while also running small shops like it was yesterday. I used to go with her to the port of Nouadhibou (editor's note, in Western Mauritania) to sell roasted peanuts and millet porridge.
Houleye would continue to face various forms of violence in the years that followed. This is what drives her ambition to be a journalist and an activist: I told myself that it wasn't enough to be a journalist. I wanted to be a voice for women, to share their stories and their plights, and even to help victims get justice.
Nowadays, Houleye Kane is overseeing a network of around thirty Mauritanian journalists working to put an end to violence against women and girls and to promote women's initiatives and empowerment in various regions, through innovative reporting. Another project: a media tracking unit to talk about female voters and candidates (see presidential election scheduled for June 2024).

She's a warrior who gives no quarter in the field!
Moussa Ely Cheikh Traoré,
producer to VFC production

A wave of admiration

Her never-ending commitment has brought her a number of plaudits, which include: "100 women who can change the world" (La Repubblica newspaper, Italy, 2019), "The most influential figures in West Africa" (Influences Magazine, Senegal, 2018), "Exceptional Mauritanian women" (Jeune Chambre de Commerce, Mauritania, 2015).
Houleye Kane is well known in Mauritania! She's been greeted with a wave of admiration at every media organisation we've visited together. She is always approachable and kind to others, says David Solon, who works with her as a coach as part of CFI's Afri'Kibaaru project ().

Houleye is also seeing progress being made in the media organisations being supported: At the start of the project, a number of women did not feel confident enough to go out into the field. Now, some of them are no longer just sat behind their computers. They are inconspicuously using their mobile phones to shoot footage and want to become video journalists!
Thanks to Houleye Kane, Jacques Cœur's maxim is being put into practice in Mauritania: A brave heart can accomplish anything!


In ten years…

Currently providing support to young Mauritanians, Houleye Kane does not envision a change in career in ten years: In 2023, we created La Loupe (The Magnifying Glass) so that young Mauritanians could tell their stories and inspire others. This platform on Facebook and TikTok could become a media channel in a few years' time, and we want to use it to show the resilience of these young people. Listening to them is a starting point from which we could help prevent illegal immigration.
Moussa Ely Cheikh Traoré, aka "Moussa VFC PROD", co-developed this project and is decidedly optimistic: I don't see anything stopping this warrior! Houleye gives young people, and especially women, the courage to become journalists. Mauritania needs five people like her!

It's not easy to have many irons in the fire, even for an active activist… Yet David Solon, who works with her as a coach as part of the Afri'Kibaaru project, believes she can do it: Houleye hasn't finished spreading her wings! She's a bit like "Shiva", with her many arms. She can do many things simultaneously and she will be responsive and caring to everyone. However, I see her more as a leader for projects that benefit Mauritanian society and women in particular.
Houleye's older sister Selly has the same view, more or less: In ten years, Houleye will be among the journalistic elite, but she will not stop helping people, especially women.
Houleye says that she intends to "merge" her two causes: Until we have a specific law on gender-based violence, journalists—men and women alike—must continue to be proactive. Perhaps only then would I give up my campaigning and focus more on investigative journalism.

Mauritania needs five people like her!"
Moussa Ely Cheikh Traoré,
producer to VFC production