Shamanta Fagoonee – Mauritius

Shamanta Fagoonee – Mauritius

Date: August 21, 2015
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It is a girl’s dream coming true

I first met Gender Links at a workshop some time in 2006 or 2007 and since then my perspective has changed drastically, even though in my own way I have been fighting the disparity between boys and girls since early childhood. My mother, who only attended school up to primary level, has always guided me and one thing has stayed in my mind: in Hindu culture girls get married and leave their parental home to live with their husband’s family. My mother has done her best to educate me and she said “neither your parents’ home nor that of your husband is yours.” The first thing that will happen when there is a problem is that your husband and in-laws will tell you “leave and go away to your mother’s place”. When you come back your brothers will be aghast and will treat you badly since they fear that you will become a hurdle in their lives.

The best thing about being educated is that you are economically independent and do not depend on others to live your life. There cannot be gender equality without education and economic independence. Increasing the numbers of women in local politics is not the only thing that counts, it is also the way they participate and overcome their fears and dare to speak out and participate equally in the decision making process. As most of the women in the council are new to politics they get embarrassed and do not have the experience of their male counterparts and this should be resolved.

To be a driver of change a person need to be motivated and believe in gender equality, the change in fact begins with that person and s/he can pass the change on to others.

In 2013 I participated in the competition for the best improved performance for the Municipal Council of Vacoas Phoenix and amongst all the SADC countries I won the first prize in South Africa.

During the national summit I presented two projects, one on the environment and the other in the Centre of Excellence (COE) category. During my presentation in the environment category, I was very taken aback as other staff members had not prepared the project to the required standards, whereas I had myself prepared the entry in the COE category. During the presentation I learnt that although my council has done a lot in this category it had not been presented in the way that it ought to have been.

During the awards ceremony at the Indaba Hotel in April 2013, we were very proud that Mauritius had won so many awards for good work. The award ceremony was almost over and I had not yet heard the name of my organisation. I was disappointed as I knew that my council had done a lot of work. Then suddenly I heard: “There is a council which has done a tremendous job in mainstreaming gender equality and has almost quadrupled its marks…” I looked all around to see who could have been the winner and could not believe that it was my council. This was the most wonderful time of my life. It is not only about winning, it is also that we have contributed to such a just cause. “Gender equality yes we can – yes we must”. This logo always rings in my ears.

My personal life has changed drastically, my daughter who was only 9 years old in 2013 looked at me as though I was a heroine. I was applauded in the council for the good job I had done and also for making our council known in all the SADC countries. It is a girl’s dream coming true.

Gender Links has given us the ideal platform to make our voices heard, not only in Mauritius but in all SADC countries. Loga and Mary have been very helpful and encouraging and have helped me bring new impetus to my project. I can never stop thanking them. In fact, no words in the world can thank them enough.

I have learned from Gender Links to strive and strive until you succeed. There is much that has been done and there is much more to be done. The work towards gender equality never stops; it is an on-going process. Even if women are educated and are independent, they still face many controversies in their daily life related to their gender. It is an on-going battle, like the lamp fighting the wind.

I have had the continuous support and help of my immediate superior who believed in my capabilities and in me, guided me and gave me the opportunity to present the project. I cannot stop thanking Mr Yetty, the Mayor, all the municipal councillors and Mr Nandaj Dayal, the CEO of the Municipal Council of Vacoas Phoenix. No person is an island. Nothing can be done alone. It is all teamwork. At the Municipal Council of Vacoas Phoenix all the staff have worked together and it is this team spirit which helped us win the award.
No action is without a reaction. Any action, no matter how small, can help to change a society. Winning an award has motivated the council to improve and do better.

My husband has always been supportive and in fact when I was leaving for South Africa, he encouraged and motivated me. A change in mind set is important and it is what this award has brought for me. I am able to look at things differently, with a gender sensitive eye. My daughter already knows a lot about gender equality and parity. My close relations all all accept the change and are confident about my capabilities. They support me in all my endeavours.

The main challenge that I have faced was and is changing the mindset of people. We need to let all people know that gender is not a women’s issue but an issue that concerns the entire populace.

My future plans are to help people in the District of Moka, as I have done in Vacoas Phoenix. Here in the rural areas, the problems are more deep-rooted and harder work is required. I am looking forward to helping solve the issues that women face here.

Despite the fact that women have been able to reach the moon, yet there are many women in this world who are being beaten and otherwise molested or killed. We must continue striving for a better life for all and work together for the betterment of every human, irrespective of their gender.


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