Mauritius – “Women should remain determined; there is the space for them in politics.” Sandra Mayotte

Date: May 15, 2023
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“Nowadays, children receive very empowering messages on the status, role and potentiality of women.”

Sandra Marie Monia Mayotte is a member of the National Assembly and a member of the political party ‘Mouvement Socialiste Militant’ (MSM). She encountered Gender Links during her working experience at the national public broadcaster of the Republic of Mauritius, the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). At the MBC, she co-hosted a programme entitled ‘Fam Rakonte (Etre Femme)’ (English: Women speak up (Being a Woman)). Even prior to this program, she has always been an advocate for women’s rights and gender equality.

Around 2013, according to Mayotte, Gender Links represented the most apt organization which allowed for women’s voices to be heard, especially battered women, and raised awareness on domestic violence. She has followed the journey and diversification of Gender Links Mauritius’ work. Speaking up about domestic violence was still considered a taboo during earlier years. Facts, statistics, lived experiences of women and the harsh realities of life needed to be put forward at that time; Gender Links was able to do just that. There were weekly radio programs conducted in collaboration with Gender Links. Mayotte was also given the opportunity to participate at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit in South Africa twice via Gender Links.

With regards to her professional journey, Mayotte has more than 25 years of experience in the media and is also a renowned Sega artist. Throughout her professional pathway, she was attentive and listened to the qualms of members of the public. She realized that domestic violence is a global phenomenon but it was also normalised and trivialized. For her, this is not acceptable as on one side, there is the advocacy to assign more significant roles to women and on the other side, women are being verbally, physically and emotionally abused. Insults, demeaning remarks and threats form part of the verbal abuse directed towards women; this type of violence is often side-lined. She initiated chatrooms along with Gender Links and her colleagues during which the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development was discussed. Women were thus able to call anonymously, narrate their experiences and ask for help.

Furthermore, Mayotte was selected by Sony Pictures UK to become the host for the TV program ‘Qui veut gagner des millions?’ (English: Who wants to be a Millionaire?). This represented a peak in her career. She saw sexist and racist comments following this selection. Hence, she states that women should refrain from condoning bullying against other women, whether online or offline.

Mayotte holds various causes at heart, some of which include the fight against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), feminism, autism and helping people in need. Firstly, Mayotte regularly collaborates and reflects on the role of women in the Mauritian society and especially, how women can be encouraged to reach for senior level positions. She has very often and in diverse ways sung to pay tribute to women; some of her prominent songs include ‘Dignite’ (English: Dignity) amongst others. She believes that more responsibility and attention should be given to men in the fight against GBV. Perpetrators should also be held responsible for their actions, undergo treatment and redirect their lives anew. In addition, there are various constructive messages and role models which portray women taking full control over their lives. Nowadays, children receive very empowering messages on the status, role and potentiality of women.

In addition, Mayotte seeks to advocate for the provision of adequate support to children and parents of children with autism. As any other child, children with autism grow up to become adolescents and also go through the adolescent crisis. This period is not pleasantly experienced neither by the child nor by their parents as the child has difficulty expressing himself or herself. During her various encounters with children in her constituency, she realized that support needed to be given to children with autism and their parents who are concerned about the future of their young children.

Speaking about her political career, Mayotte affirms that it was an honour as well as a challenge for her to be elected as an MP during the national elections of 2019 in Mauritius. She justified her mixed feelings because of the following reasons: since she is a woman, she forms part of the Creole community and because she has been a renowned Sega artist prior to entering into politics. She subsequently received belittling remarks and was bullied as people thought that being a Sega artist implied that she was simply an object of recreation that can be commoditized. Contrarily, Mayotte posits that a Sega artist can actually think; she believes that every human being has the ability to think irrespective of their educational qualifications. Internationally, many artists have become politicians and they have not been verbally abused or bullied.

Mayotte believes that young people and women who believe that they can achieve concrete actions whilst being in active politics should not be restricted by the fear of people’s opinions. Being in politics is not about achieving a designated seat but rather it implies working towards pertinent causes. She has always been listening and addressing the grievances of citizens, helping them in their administrative arrangements and conducting home visits to people during the weekend without the need for public recognition whilst in the media industry. Politics therefore represented a logical continuation to her rich career in the media. Women should remain determined; there is the space for them in politics. She asserts that it is plausible that we might see a political party with 100% of women members.

In relation to her future plans, Mayotte reiterates her commitment to stand united, listen attentively and help citizens as much as she can. She experiences happiness as well as a lot of personal satisfaction when she hears that the grievances of people have been resolved. She aspires to continue learning so that she improves in her role as politician. She is still in the process of developing a thick skin which protects one from external attacks rather than renders one completely oblivious or insensitive to the plight of others. Mayotte firmly believes that one should live their life to their full potential, have faith and enjoy the present moment. She will continue to collaborate with Gender Links and wishes to express her gratitude and good wishes to the whole team of Gender Links.