Nathalie Razafindehibe – Madagascar

Nathalie Razafindehibe – Madagascar

Date: June 25, 2012
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I come from a political family, and while I had always had some peripheral interest in politics, I was catapulted rapidly onto the political scene in 2002, when my father was imprisoned for being a member of the opposition party. This was following in the footsteps of my grandfather, who was a lawyer and member of the opposition. He was imprisoned 15 times successively before going into exile in the South.  I am now the president of an organization call the Network for the Eradication of Violence in Antananarivo. My whole life has been shaped by involvement in politics, and the struggle for gender equality.

I joined the Union for the Future of Madagascar (UAMAD), and was proposed by this party to be a driver in setting up a road map for gender equity. I would like to show male politicians that women are as capable as they are. Particularly at a time where peace building is a crucial part of the national agenda, it is time for women to take their place in politics, and achieve gender equality.

This is an issue that I take very personally, because my life as a women has had so many challenges. My parents went through an acrimonious divorce when I was young, so as the oldest of 7 children, that left me responsible both for my own education, and for many of the emotional needs of my younger siblings. When I was older, I was a victim of domestic violence in my marriage. These things made me commit to making a contribution to gender equality; women need to be able to have peace, internally and externally. I have two daughters, and hope their opportunities and struggles will be different from mine.

Malagasy politicians aren’t used to seeing women play an active role in political parties; but slowly, through my involvement and that of other politically active women, they are learning that women need to be heard. While we are still few in number, women are increasing slowly in decision making posts. For example, now 20% of the seats in the Superior Council of the Transition are held by women.

For the first time in Madagascar’s history, there are not only one or two women ministers, but 9 our of 28 ministers are women; nearly 30%. However, the landscape is not so bright at the local level, where there isn’t a single women Chief of region out of 22 regions, and only 2.5% of all district committees are led by women. It’s clear that the battle for women’s equality in politics will be a long one. Our next efforts will be directed to organizing a movement to appoint women to electoral committees in every district. Change must come from below.

This is why I think the work of Gender Links is so important; it focusses on the local government level, which is where change happens. It is also so important to receive recognition and support for the women who are active in politics. We spend so much of our time fighting, and fighting, and facing opposition, that it means so much to step back now and then, and acknowledge that this is hard work; that we make progress in some areas, that we have setbacks sometimes, but that we are not alone in the fight, and that it is important that we keep working.

At the moment, as President of the Network for the Eradication of Violence, we do a lot of work in the community for women who are experiencing different kinds of problems, ranging from domestic violence to accessing their economic rights. For example, many women don’t have information about how to access pensions, and we try and help them with this. Polygamy is also very common in Madagascar, and women often don’t know what their legal rights are. We try and provide voluntary legal services to women who are experiencing problems with inheritance, access to land, and other issues.

One source of support Gender Links has brought in is the connection to the SADC region, and the Protocol in particular. This has allowed us a platform for lobbying, since the government has already agreed on certain goals and targets. This gives us a good starting point, and measuring stick, to know where we need to go. We are moving in the right direction, even though progress is slow. By working together, there is a lot we can achieve.



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