Annick Rabearisoa – Madagascar

Annick Rabearisoa – Madagascar

Date: July 1, 2015
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Bongatsara is a second category locality. It is in the rural region of Madagascar although only 15kms from the Capital. “But the service is in the first category!” the Mayor told Gender Links. Being a second category is decided according to the number of inhabitants, but there is a huge range of work and service delivery levels in rural regions. As Mayor and the Head Administrator of the Council, Annick Rabearisoa finds herself in charge of finance and social development of the locality. This is apart from being a counsellor, a friend, a mother, an administrator, a trainer and all other official and unofficial work combined.

“Contrary to developed countries, social and economic development issues in the locality are put in the same basket. The state does not take charge of the health of the population although it gives the minimum. The Council has to fill the gap and take charge of all those in need.” She then showed Gender Links the statistics of the vulnerable people in her locality. “When these people are sick, we give them CSB2 (basic health care) and we do whatever we can. But if they need to do an echography or radiography, we channel them to the proper services, and they get the services according to a well-established list.

In other words, Rabearisoa is the torch bearer of her community. Whenever she finds a dark alley she tries by all means to find the light at the end of the tunnel, so that at the end of the day her community is the beneficiary. Bongatsara is a region where girls leave school because of early pregnancy or abortion. Girls cannot finish their studies, and hence the interest of the Mayor in Gender and Education.

Rabearisoa had confidence in saying she is part and parcel of Gender Links, because she became part of a network of women whose work she had admixed and appreciated. Apart from Claudia, whom she met at the UNFPA, she was agreeably surprised to have two familiar women as Gender Links facilitators for the COE. Collette Vaohita, Former Minister of Environment, Former Deputy Mayor of Tamatave and Former Regional Director at Tamatatve for the Project SEECALINE (fights against malnutrition) Collette, former Minister of Environment and Lantoharitiana Ranoromalala, Civil Administator and high official of Local Government.

The Mayor followed all the stages of the COE, and as soon as the Plan of Action was developed, she put in place Steering Committee on Gender. “This is the basis for the Plan of Action. The Gender Links workshop was run in parallel with a programme of the UNFPA on the role of the media, gender violence and women in politics. 46 participants followed the course.” Rabearisoa committed her Council to implement the Action Plan.

“In Madagascar we talk a lot about SADC and how SADC can help Madagascar to get us out the political crisis, but we never mention the Protocol. And yet the contents of the Protocol are our life-buoy. We are an integral part of SADC; we have signed the Protocol on Gender and Development and yet had had it not been to Gender Links, our eyes would not have been opened on the Protocol. We would not have known this instrument. We have now integrated the Protocol in all our projects.

On 27th February 2013, there will be a judicial court, which Rabearisoa as Mayor will have to attend together with other high officials. At least 66 children out of a total of 8,530 do not have Birth Certificates, and over 18 men and 154 women out of a total of 20,000 do not have identity cards. Gender Links was curious to know more about this judicial court and the Former Minister of Environment explained that “it is a small tribunal in the presence of the Mayor and high officials as well as the audience who participates, so that people have the right to get identity cards. If they do not have identify cards, how can they vote? But the date of birth is approximated, as those concerned do not even know their date of birth. There is a photographer present, and all the administrative procedures are done there in the presence of witnesses.”

According to the Mayor and the Former Minister of Environment, this is part of the reason why the general elections have been postponed. There are too many people without identity cards, and they cannot vote without ID.

The collaboration with Gender Links has been a godsend for the Mayor. “Gender based violence is rife in my locality, and yet people was afraid to talk. This has always been taboo until Gender Links gave the training. To expose the problem also means we are giving voices to the voiceless, and especially encouraging women to talk on GBV. The Council has put in place a Centre d’ecoute et conseil juridique (a listening centre with legal advice). It was with tears in her eyes that Rabearisoa showed Gender Links a picture of a woman who has been beaten and cut by a knife in her upper arms and legs by her husband. The Mayor even called the woman to come and talk with The Gender Links francophone director.  “I want you to see with your own eyes.” But the centre helped the woman by calling the husband as well. They are now living together in harmony. “Very often these husbands become violent under the influence of alcohol, and once the effect of alcohol has gone they accompany their wives to the centre.” The council has a budget for GBV.

“Each time I take a decision for the benefit of my community, I run the risk of being taken to court. I listen to grassroots women and men and this is the basis of my work. I deal a lot with litigation of land ownership.”

Access to land is a basic human right. When women have a piece of land for themselves, this is empowerment, and giving them back their stolen dignity. The experience that has been close to the heart of the Mayor is being able to give women their ownership title for a piece of land, and helping them to become owners of their own land. She told Gender Links that the project of giving women land started with the Abbe Pierre Foundation; since 1998, it was decided to give a piece of land to those in abject poverty. “Unfortunately, this was not done and when I became Mayor I revived the project.” Rabearisoa mobilised high officials to help her, including the Vice Prime Minister, Hajo Andrianainarivelo, who was in charge of Land Reform. 80% of the litigation around land has been sorted out. Being able to give birth certificates to children and identity cards to women is also another great project of the Mayor. Not having birth certificates means that these children do not exist. Women have been able to get officially married when they got their identity cards and the Mayor has celebrated these weddings.

Gender Links gave Rabearisoa the techniques to deal with problems. “When I go to the website of Gender Links and read the Opinion and Commentary Articles, I realise that we are not the only country facing these social problems. The Gender Links website is a great source of information and empowerment,” says the Mayor. She is now more confident to talk about sensitive issues

“Gender Links helped me to gain confidence in myself, and look at me now; I am not only a politician doing tremendous work for my community, but I have gone a long way. I know what is happening in other African countries and I learn from that.” Rabearisoa believes that one must be able to listen and have advice to find solutions to problems. “I learn from my mistakes, and reinforce what I have to become a positive person.”

Rabearisoa had tears in her eyes when she told Gender Links that apart from the two facilitators of Gender Links, she attributes her success to her mother who has been a role model. “There are five of us, and my father has not been very present; my mother must be congratulated for what we are today.”

Whenever she is down she thinks of her aunt who is a high political figure. “Politics can be a dirty business. It is like a crab basket, you must expect anything. People can be hard and stab you in the back. It can be a dirty business. You must expect anything. If you are not strong then your place is not in politics.”

Rabearisoa means business as far as the COE is concerned. She has made sure that there is a Steering Committee. The Action Plan was officially launched in the presence of high officials of UNFPA and Gender Links. The Action Plan is not only being implemented, but the Committee sees to it that there is proper monitoring.

The greatest source of satisfaction for Rabearisoa in her work is to have been able to help people who had no land and no houses. “I helped them with the procedures. Gender Links has helped me to put all the pieces together, and I am grateful for that.”

The dream of Rabearisoa is to put in place a system of micro credit for women so that they can become economically independent. “If women are economically independent, GBV will be on the decrease. Furthermore, they will be able to give their family a better quality of life and have enough money for medical expenses.”

With all the experience she has gained, Rabearisoa wants to stand as a candidate for the forthcoming local elections. Her council will enter in all the themes of the Gender Links National Summit. Before taking leave, Gender Links thanked her warmly for the 100 page report that she handed over for the Gender Links Library.


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