Rajaovelo Rivonarinjaka – Madagascar

Rajaovelo Rivonarinjaka – Madagascar

Date: July 1, 2015
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My name is Rajaovelo Rivonarinjaka, Chief of staff within the rural council of Miantso, a little council nearly 150 kilometres from the capital of Madagascar. My main task at the council is the general management of all outstanding issues related to the council functioning. I am also a member of different associations, such as the “Association of Gender Sensitive Elected Representatives”, the “Environment Focus Group” and the association of citizens for reconstruction of the education system.

My first encounter with Gender Links was in 2011 when they came to establish the Centre of Excellence (COE) concept in our council. Their arrival was welcomed by the mayor and all the councillors. After developing the objectives of the COE process, the council agreed to be part of this great initiative, and then the process began. When the work of GL began, gender issues were considered a feminist cause in most peoples thinking; it was seen as something just for women. Still, I decided to follow all the stages of the COE process with interest. I found it inspiring and interesting. I must say that I have learned a lot.

During stage 7-8, Gender Links announced the summit in our council. All the participants in the council were convinced that Miantso should participate in the summit, because everyone had seen a considerable evolution in terms of gender equality within the council. In addition, the summit was a great opportunity for all the COEs in Madagascar to share their experiences and exchange expertise, but also to measure their council’s achievements. I decided to be the representative of the council at that time. That first national summit was a great challenge because we saw the participation of more than 36 councils all over the country. There was stiff competition, but to our great satisfaction, our council was selected among the three COEs to represent Madagascar during the regional summit. That first victory was an eye-opener for me. I realised then that even if I am a man, I can give my contribution to support the gender cause. I felt proud of myself and proud of my council. That first step brought us to the third annual gender justice and local government summit in Johannesburg.

GL Madagascar is a small office with a large reach. When I came to the GL Madagascar office for the first time, I asked myself how these three people manage all the work that comes their way, and still ensure that GL is such a well-known organisation in the country? What I want to say is that GL has an ambitious project in the country as well as in the region, and the most amazing thing is the speed at which they start making changes. In fact, the key problem in Madagascar is that many NGOs come to present many projects in Madagascar but at the time of its implementation, nothing is changing. Gender Links is different; it really gets things done.

I can proudly say that GL has actually changed my life. First of all, my vision of gender has changed. After the first workshop held in my council, I was convinced that the gender issue should be integrated in all development projects. I was convinced that women’s involvement and actual participation in development process is vital. Secondly, I changed my behaviour towards my wife and children. Now, I am assigning the same domestic tasks to both my daughters and sons; even my wife was greatly surprised by this change. In my professional field, I am able to master the gender concept and all the relevant themes and instruments related to gender, such as the SADC protocol on gender and development, the UNSCR 1325 on peace and security, etc. In terms of skills, it was during the first summit in 2011 that I touched a computer for the first time. Now, I am more than comfortable using it. And lastly, I am able to facilitate workshops on gender without the fear of criticism from male participants.

The council of Miantso has evolved a lot in terms of gender. After my last workshop in the council, there were more than 10 women who were ready to be councillor and mayoral candidates. I can say that our council could win the next COE summit if everything is going as planned.

To conclude, gender issues are a long-lasting battle; it needs the contribution of all citizens, men and women. Women and men should work together in all fields; political, economic, and social change will come together. In my opinion, the main challenge in Madagascar is the obedience so many people show to tradition and culture. Sometimes, people think that gender equality is contradictory to transitions of the Malagasy, especially in the coastal regions. However, the COE process shows us how we can address the prevailing situation, no matter where we are starting. Implementing this process in the most gender blind councils would advance greatly our work. We must admit that working against tradition and culture is difficult, but success is never achieved without determination.


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