Justin Randriamahefo – Madagascar

Justin Randriamahefo – Madagascar

Date: July 1, 2015
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I am the mayor of the rural commune of Tsiafahy. What I can say is that first of all, GBV is really a problem that exists in the community, so the fight against it is very important. It is connected to so many other things in the community. For example, participation of women in politics is very low; we haven’t seen much of it at all. There are also cultural attitudes that are entrenched, and affect GBV. For example, some kinds of violence are considered quite normal, such as at times of anger.

We’ve linked up with Gender Links to see what has been done in the country, and we’re very interested in increasing collaboration. We have followed the Centres of Excellence process, and this methodology has been very useful for us. We know that the majority of the population in our commune is women, so if we mobilize them, local development will really get a boost. We took this into consideration when we implemented Gender Links’ program, and made sure that a wide variety of constituencies were involved; theist made participation very enthusiastic.

The issues that we addressed working with Gender Links are really things that we live in our daily lives. It uncovered underlying beliefs people held, about women in leadership positions, stereotypes, and so on. The best thing that came out of it is that we all worked together to develop a plan of action. It is the first time we had brought together so many stakeholders to work on a common agenda, and it is a model that was very useful for us. While the program was initially three days, in the end, we had to lengthen the time, because we all felt the work was so crucial for us.

The outputs of this process have really been immense; they are apparent in many facets of our work. A small group of people in the commune received training on GBV; they are now in the process of spreading the information they received throughout civil society. We formed a committee on gender. While we assigned a budget to the group, they agreed nobody would take a penny for their time. The volunteer energy is wonderful. Their activities are sometimes very simple, like sports competitions, but you can see the ownership this has given the community on gender issues. The group is open, and has now grown to 78 people, 42 of whom are women. It’s such an important source of support and activity, because the mayor’s office only has 5 staff; it’s impossible to do everything.

The whole process was a learning experience for us. We are managing in terms of implementation, but we are also identifying gaps; for example, on M&E, we need training on this; it would strengthen our work. But we can see that the start has been substantial. Our mission now is to empower people on gender issues. We have a lot of work to do. Madagascar has 1500 communes, and we have only reached 30. We are proud to have this leading role, but the work is also immense. There is so much interest in neighboring areas, because the issues of gender, violence, and security are so big.

Our country is facing many challenges at the moment. Many traditional leaders are unwilling to work with government structures. We have been recreating communes, and bringing them into a recognized, legal structure; this has really been a challenge. Add to this mobilizing resources at the decentralized level and partisan politics, and you can see the situation is difficult. However, the work is crucial. GBV exists in every community, often in very hidden and damaging ways. For example, incest is an issue nobody wants to talk about. People don’t have confidence in the police, and we need reference points when there are problems.

I am confident that the work in our commune will carry on; we have been very deliberate in creating open, democratic structures, and there is really a solid foundation in the community. There are so many ways for our work to grow and develop, we hope to continue working with Gender Links to eradicate GBV, and strengthen the work at the commune level.



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