Date: March 22, 2016
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My name is Claire, I live at Ambohidrano. I could not go far in my studies as I stopped in the first year of the secondary school because my parents could no longer afford my schooling. I belong to a rather impoverished family and all my childhood was spent trying to earn money to help my parents. I got married when I was 18; my husband is one of those firemen at that time and he was 20 when we got married. We have been together for a few years when we decided to get married and we had the Malagasy traditional wedding as well as the official one before the Registrar. We now have six children.

We lived quite happily at that time as my husband really loved me.When I got married, I stopped working as I was busy taking care of the household. It was when I had my second child that the problem began. He started drinking and gambling so he hardly brought money back home as he was spending all his pay outside. It was then too that he started beating me because he became violent when under the influence of alcohol. I endured kicks and blows and he even kicked me out of our home. But despite that, I didn’t leave because he was the father of my children. When I had my sixth child I could no longer bear his beating, so I decided to leave our home and go back to my parents. When we separated he took another wife with whom he had children too. However, two years later, he came to see us and asked me to forgive him as he had nowhere to go. He then promised to change and to help us financially. First I did not want him to come back because I could not stand what he did to me. But when I thought it over I agreed since I am lawfully married to him. He came back home and at the beginning, our life went on smoothly. But that did not last long since he went back to his former behaviour after a few months. And the beatings were even more violent.

One day, he beat me so hard that I nearly died. I went to report this to the “Fokontany”1 and I was advised to go to the office dealing with domestic violence. Without any hesitation, I did so and upon their advice, registered a complaint with the “Gendarmerie”. I would like to point out that I did not complain to my family because not only was I ashamed but I did not expect any help from them. Besides, as the saying goes, “A couple’s problem is private and should not be shared with anybody”. Later on, my husband died and I expected that my constant worries would end there. But that was not the case as it was my own daughters who started beating me. I want to draw attention to the fact that my eldest daughter is divorced with two children. Those children have ended up being in my care: I am obliged to

pay for their schooling and whatever they need because their father refuses to provide for them.

It was in October 2013 that I started following this training and I never missed a session since then. I was interested in all the presentations. One thing that I will never forget is when I was selected to represent the commune of Bongatsara at the national summit at Hôtel Colbert: that was the first time in my life I had the opportunity to talk about what I think in front of lot of people.

Before the training, what I was doing was sewing. Now chicken farming is added to that. The training has really helped me to make progress and the Council too, assisting me with all the moving around and various advices as well. Gender Links has also extended a helping hand with the chicken farming, allowances and meals during each training and travelling expenses when travelling far.

I think that there is a link between financial autonomy and violence because if you have money, thieves may come to kill you, so you cannot be at peace with yourself.

Within the community, I share what I got from the training when talking with other people. Compared with other people, I did gain something as I can think over what should be done, especially on budgeting.

The lessons I can draw from the training is that one has to assume responsibility towards other people and oneself too, so that there is no obligation to have a man around to achieve something as people are equal. I will go on improving and expanding the chicken farming.

Perhaps in 15 years’ time — God willing — my small home farming can become a real farm and I will then be a business woman. I still go on with my sewing until now while expanding my chicken farming.

Training and exchanging ideas with the community made me progress. The changes I have undergone have had an impact on the community through friendship and idea exchanging.

Finally, I would like to thank Gender Links and the Council profusely because I really benefited from them.