Changing lives: Marie Flore Bezenarizanany – Madagascar

Changing lives: Marie Flore Bezenarizanany – Madagascar

Date: June 30, 2015
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My name is Marie Flore Bezenarizanany, and I am working at the Listening and Counselling centre in Tamatave, Madagascar. As a paralegal, my main task is to receive and treat GBV cases coming to the centre. Our centre has been operational for three years now. 90% of the cases treated in the centre are domestic and conjugal violence. Due to the low income of households, many women suffer from economic violence. Some of them are also unemployed, and wait for men to supply the household’s expenses. Starting from a simple dispute to serious physical violence, the cases treated at the centre are varied. My principal mission is to facilitate and restore peace between these couples, and try to find agreements between the two parties. From my experience over the past three years, a frequent challenge encountered in the centre is the payment of maintenance for children when the last solution for the couple is divorce. For physical or sexual violence cases, we work closely with the police to sort the issue.

I came to know Gender Links (GL) in 2009, when they came to organize stage 5 and 6 of the COE process in our council. But before that, Ialfine Papisy came to visit our centre from time to time. That first workshop was very interesting, because many relevant themes related to gender were discussed. GL helped us a lot in making a gender approach understood in the council. After several workshops with GL, I knew the importance of mainstreaming gender in all issues related to development. The trainings given by GL were adapted to the local context, so it was easy to apply in real life.

Mainstreaming gender within the council helped women to be more confident, as the associations of women were invited to all workshops. Women acquired skills such as conducting campaigns and dealing with the media, which were directly connected to their work. Many women who took part in the meetings now dare to express their ideas in public.

My second encounter with GL was during the second national summit in March 2013. I heard from my colleagues that GL was organizing the second national summit on good practices, and did not hesitate to prepare my application. I chose the theme GBV and conflict resolution category. I was so happy to find that I was pre-selected for the national summit. At first, I was rather scared, because it was the first time for me to participate in such a huge event. The national summit gathered more than 160 participants from all over the country and took place in a prestigious hotel in the capital.

The different good practices shared during the presentations not only enriched my knowledge, but also made me realize that many people are doing things to achieve gender equality. In fact, I knew the manifestations of violence may vary from one region to anther and it is necessary to use different approaches in different contexts and cultures. It was so amazing to see the number of people who came for this summit, and how they excelled in presenting their good practices of how to end violence. The national summit also gave me the opportunity to exchange ideas with participants from other regions of Madagascar.

An exciting gala dinner followed the two-day presentation. That evening was so special because all the participants were gathered and had the opportunity to present their region and culture through traditional dances, clothes, poems or role-plays. It was very interesting, because it was the first time that I discovered the culture of some regions of my own country. The festivity was closed by the announcement of the name of the winners. I could not believe my ears when my name was announced as the winner of the GBV and conflict resolution category. I do not know how to describe my joy that night; I was so happy. My work was rewarded and recognized. In addition, the prize was so huge: a trip to South Africa to attend the regional summit. It was like a dream for me, because I had never thought of going abroad, as I did not have the means. It was the first time that I came to know all the papers needed for getting a passport and a visa. Fortunately, the personnel of GL were there to assist in all these processes, including the preparation of the presentation for the regional summit. As it was the first time for me to go to another country, I was anxious about the new things I might discover in an unknown country, but I was reassured because I was travelling with a huge delegation.

We arrived in Johannesburg on a Sunday afternoon. We were transferred to a luxurious hotel where the summit was hosted. My main preoccupation was the language, because I did not know a word in English. However, the language issue was not a barrier at all; translation equipment was available for us. Hundreds of people attended the regional summit at the Indaba Hotel.

My presentation was scheduled for the last day, so I still had time to prepare. I assisted with the presentations of my colleagues, and tried to get lessons from their experiences. I tried to give my best during my presentation, because I was the first presenter in the afternoon. The judges asked me two questions, and I responded as briefly as I could. I did not know if my responses satisfied them or not, but I tried to give illustrations and examples. It was also the first time that I had presented in front of such a huge audience. I was stressed and had the jitters.

The regional summit was again closed by a splendid gala dinner with beautiful decorations. The time for the announcement of the awards came. My heart began to beat very fast while seeing the winners receiving their trophies. Then, in GBV category, I heard my name announced with an English accent. I was so happy because I was the runner up in the category GBV and conflict resolution.

From this experience, I am more confident in the work that I am doing, because our work is recognized as being efficient. Moreover, I learned about the different cultures of other African countries which are rather similar as Madagascar’s. It was also an opportunity for me to hear the English language. I am dedicating this trophy to all my fellow paralegals in Madagascar, because we all deserve a prize for the amazing job that we do for our sisters, the survivors of violence. I want to thank also Gender Links for making my dreams come true, and helping me live that unforgettable experience.


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