Madagascar: my life has completely changed and has been progressing well

Madagascar: my life has completely changed and has been progressing well


Date: March 16, 2016
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MARIE Jeannette_GBV survivor_CUT_Gender LinksCut, Madagascar, 16 March 2016: My name is Marie Jeannette and I live in the town of Toamasina. I married a man who was chosen by my mother even though, at that time, I loved someone else. Everything went well in the household until I gave birth to our first child. Then, my husband started to threaten me and didn’t give me money. This situation became even worse later because it ended up with physical abuse.

He had a girlfriend who was pregnant and he brought her to our house and she lived with us. I could no longer bear the situation, especially the fact that he still beat me so I decided to break up. I could not take anything with me; he even burnt all my clothes. He kept our first child with him and wanted me to take the youngest.

Afterwards, I met someone that I loved but due to my husband’s threats, he wanted to leave me. Finally we stayed together because I was pregnant. We still dated each other but chose not to live together because we feared my husband. I decided not to marry at all.

To generate money, I did handicraft work (weaving and sewing) and sold groceries. I took on medical training because my dream was to become a nurse. Unfortunately, my parents could not afford the training fees so I did not reach my goal. Later, I joined the training organized by Gender Links, I had heard about it at the council. I missed a phase one when I gave birth to my child, but attended the other two phases.

All the topics discussed during the training were very interesting. They included women’s rights and fight against the violence perpetrated against them. I was also interested in the session about the income and expense management. We also learnt how to find business partners and new markets outside the locality where we live in, using the internet. Even though I was not really familiar on this technology, I tried to understand the lesson well.

We were asked to develop our own work plan; mine was a medicine-selling project. I really wanted to do it so I decided to continue researching. I looked for business partners who would financially support my studies. An organization named “Santenet 2” accepted to do so. The training was held at TODIKA and I really enjoyed it because I gained further experience.

This training provided by Gender Links really helped me to progress. I was not shy anymore and had the courage to go the council office to talk about my project, which they accepted to assist me. They provided a room where I could gather and discuss with community elders and local women’s associations, about my project. We talked about the problems and the situation of availability of medicine in the local area. I tried to convince them to help me implement the project and asked if they could provide a place where I could carry out the activity, initially with simple equipment.

The activity was going well, many people in the community came to buy medicine at the drugstore. The little problem I met when starting the business was that they didn’t bring any medical prescription, yet the local doctor had already informed the community about the need for them to see him before buying any medicine, most of them still didn’t.

As mentioned at the beginning, I was victim of violence: my husband gave me no money and made me suffer. I endured economic and physical violence. I can say that is over now. However, I still endure moral violence caused by the jealousy of some people who are not happy with my progress. I try to stay away from this violence as I am well aware of the drawbacks it has, and I already know how to face it.

The training given by the Gender Links was very important for me. It helped me to learn how to be independent and not rely on a man. Even if the work I achieved so far is minimal, I have what I need. I do not feel ashamed in front of my relatives and the community; I can be proud because I have taken the responsibility of bringing up my children and sending them to school. People in the community even asked me to take part in the political life of the council. I was a candidate to be a mayor during the recent election (2015) because I could see people were willing to support me. I had action plans and went through the entire step but unfortunately, I was not elected. Even though, I got a position as a councillor. The people in the council kept supporting me until the mayor decided to appoint me as his first assistant.

I decided not to accept this appointment because the people in my community asked me not to. They wanted me to become the president of councillors in Antenina (where I have one shop), which happened. Besides, the people in Toamasina asked me to be a candidate for the position of Head of the Fokontany in the next election. I grew up in Toamasina and have a house here. I am building that house from the profit I make from the business, thanks to the training I had with Gender Links and the cooperation with ADEFI-ACEP micro-finance in 2015.

Now I feel more valuable on the eyes of the community. We have built a women’s association and a network for the management of the natural resources in the council. I provided seeds for this association thanks to the help of some business partners. Now I have a shop in Toamasina where I sell my handicraft products – because I have experience in handicraft and sewing, and I use the benefits gained to run the drugstore in Antenina.