Rozy Kheedoo

Rozy Kheedoo

Date: January 20, 2014
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It is true that I have worked at village level and especially Baie du Tombeau in the North of Mauritius for quite some time. I became Village Councillor in 2005. I have helped many vulnerable women and children in the community to come out of poverty, sex work and drugs.

Media Watch Organisation opened the doors for me. Telling my story for the Gender Links (GL) study At the Coalface: Gender and Local Government in Mauritius and taking part in Gender Links’ activities has changed my life. I was doing a lot for my community, but at village level and not at a national level. Joining the GL team to help with workshops on gender and local government all over Mauritius has made another person out of me. I can talk in front a big audience without my voice trembling. I can share my experiences and stories as a councillor and most of all, I can help participants with the drafting their Action Plans on Gender-Based Violence. I had on-the-ground experience and GL gave me the tools and the techniques.

GL through Loga Virahsawmy gave me the chance to go to South Africa twice to follow training on gender and local government. I felt empowered taking part in the workshops and meeting participants from the region.

I was implementing the concept of Access, Participation and Transformation that GL uses in all its workshops without realising its importance. I realise now how it is important to have access and how to use this access to participate and finally not only to transform my village council, but my community. My voice is now heard not only at village level but at district level.

The confidence I got made be move forward and now I am the Director of a school called Ecole de la Vie (School of Life) for vulnerable children from the age of 11 to 16. These children were on the streets, sniffing drugs to fill their stomachs as they did not have food to eat. They come from parents who are either drug users or broken families and sometimes there are several children with different fathers under one roof. Violence, promiscuity and incest are rife in these families. My school gives these children a chance of a lifetime to live like any other normal children. At least I know that the 57 children that I have can wear clean clothes, get the basic educational necessities and have at least two good meals a day. Up to now I have trained 200 children. I have two trainers, one school clerk, one cook and I also get a social worker and a psychologist regularly who work with the children as well as the parents.

My funding comes from the government and the private sector. This means that there is good monitoring and evaluation. My best evaluation is when the children leave my school and fend for themselves and their families by finding a decent job with a reasonable salary. After the age of 16 the students are sent to companies for industrial training and the companies employ them after their training. They are encouraged to come to the school to share their stories with others. For me, this is important as it helps others to see some light and make them realise that there is a bright future for them.

I am also helping HIV positive people who are injecting drug users. I am in the needle exchange programme that the Government of Mauritius has put in place. I encourage my clients, both women and men, not to share dirty needles and I give them clean needles. By knowing how to talk to them and getting their confidence I have been successful in sending a few to rehabilitation centres. I give two hours of my time weekly on this project. This is very close to my heart. My village is now a model for Mauritius. My colleagues and I have worked in all the streets of the village to make sure that injecting drug users are using clean needles and I am proud to say that there are no new cases of HIV in my village.



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