Marie Coopan – Mauritius

Marie Coopan – Mauritius

Date: June 30, 2015
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“In 2007 when I was the Chief Welfare Officer in the Curepipe District Council a female councillor was supposed to attend a Gender Links (GL) meeting but could not. I was assigned to go the event and come back to give feedback. After that, I was invited by GL to work on their manual for Mauritius. More events came and in between, I helped Loga Virahsawmy with different workshops in local councils. This is how my journey began.” elaborates Mary Coopan.

Coopan is now a member of the Media Watch Organisation (MWO). The role of MWO is to watch the media and monitor their coverage of women in all their news, analyses and adverts. They act as whistle blowers to the regulatory authorities on any unethical or biased reporting around the portrayal of women. MWO represents the SADC Gender Protocol alliance in Mauritius. “Using the Protocol, we want Mauritius to attain 50/50, especially politically, because that is where policies change. We need to get women in higher levels of government. We have the duty to lobby. We will prepare a paper on why there should be women. We started with participants of the summit, for example.”

“Voter education has to be directed towards women to empower them to make choices on their own and not represent a family voice or husband’s voice. We are already collaborating with local authorities. Working with GL, we can achieve these targets. Through the MWO village workshops on the SADC Protocol, I can talk to other women and advise them to be aware of their worth and stand up, speak out and not keep the burden of gender inequality to themselves. It is more gratifying to do this work when you see people are eager to learn more and there is good exchange as I see these topics relate to their lives.”

“When I attended the first workshop conducted by GL, I did not know anything about gender. I had my own ideas about men and women. I was raised very openly but equality was really new to me. With Gender Links, I gained confidence in myself. I could facilitate workshops with more than 30 people, for example. I have broadened my knowledge on topics like climate change and economic empowerment. It has forced me to search the Internet and read more on these topics, since more interest has been cultivated. It has has had a positive contribution to my life as this was a challenge initially, but now I am more computer literate.”

GL has also helped Coopan develop and strengthen the aspect of accountability in her life. “I have always been responsible, but with GL systems like performance agreements, weekly planners and the like, I have been more conscious about planning and results.”

Coopan is also a chairperson of Terre de Paix Foundation pour l’enfants “Land of Peace Foundation for children,” a Non-Governmental Organisation that caters for children in nursery school, and also offers alternative schooling. Here she is applying what she learnt at GL within the organization. She has proposed a system of Performance Appraisal and Team building, in which every two months employees have an activity to do together. In this organisation, Coopan started as a member in the executive committee, and has an influence in policy formulation and implementation. “We work according to the Convention of the Rights of Children, so everything is clear-cut.” She agreed to be the chairperson of the organization, as she felt she had trained adequately to take on the responsibility.

“In my personal life, my husband sees that I am more gender sensitive. When people make remarks, they see that I am sensitive to these things. They take care not to say any kind of foolish things around me, because I am always up to debate with them.”

GL can take credit for the change brought about in Coopan’s life. There was already a part of her in touch with the idea of gender, but over time it has been reinforced through the training and opportunities offered by GL. Two people have been in the forefront in helping Coopan to create change in herself and her community. “Besides Loga, Abigail Jacobs Williams helped me lot. She is a good communicator, diplomatic and understanding of other people’s challenges.” Learning from Williams, Coopan point outs that she has started to understand other peoples obstacles in a different way, which has also shaped how she responds to them.

Informally as Coopan meets with different women in the community, she takes this opportunity to impact on women’s lives. She talks to them about GBV and women’s economic empowerment. This helps people see life through a gendered lens. “Even when I’m not working with GL, I carry with me the knowledge I got from the organisation wherever I go. It forms part of my life now. As the GL CEO Colleen Lowe Morna always says, you will always Gender Linked!”

“As part of the MWO, I wish continue with village workshops, since they really reach people. I also look forward to talking about the 50/50 campaign, and presenting out work at the Protocol@Work summit. The MBC contacted me for an interview to talk about issues in society on the programme “Le Cerde des Aines” with Roselyne Andre. This is just evidence to me that there I have something to offer people.


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