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First female governor brings attention to women, children in Madagascar

Page history last edited by Rosemary 12 years, 10 months ago

Creative approaches by first female governor bring increased attention to women and children in southeastern Madagascar

Things have changed in the Ihorombe region of southeastern Madagascar since Moana Essa Raseta became the first woman governor in 2005. “Since I became governor,” she says with a smile, “men have had to listen to me! And I must say that, as a woman, I am fortunate to be able to see both sides of the coin – one as a mother and wife, and the other as a government official appointed by the President of the Republic to manage and direct the development of an entire region.”

In a vast, underpopulated region where regional government focused on cattle and infrastructure, Ms. Raseta has also focused on the well-being of children and women. “As a wife and woman, I encourage parents to send their girls to school,” she says. “Look at me: I am married, I have a child who is in college and I have completed my studies as an agricultural engineer. I want to make people understand that just because a girl has an education, it does not mean that she will not get married or have children. Women and girls should study. It is their right, and, more importantly, they rely too much on men here. They should be able to rely on themselves.”

When Ms. Raseta visits a community, she organizes meetings with women as well as working sessions with the local male leaders. “I have to do this because when I go to a village and make a speech, everybody is there, even the women. But when it is time to discuss the implications of my speech, the women disappear, and only the ‘important’ people attend these discussions. So I encourage the women to meet with me separately.”

As a result, she has seen increased attendance and growing involvement by women in projects designed to help them. A few months ago, she secured financial assistance to help a women’s organization to buy sewing machines to make clothing, and recently, she engaged women in projects to increase their social protection and the income they control in their households. “Normally, any income that a woman may earn goes to the man,” she says. “But now, some of the women that I have visited and helped support are learning how to keep some income for themselves and their children.”

A year after becoming governor of Ihorombe, Ms. Resata is proud that when she visits a village where she has engaged women in such efforts, they are the first to come out and greet her. “Because I am a woman, I can put myself in their place. A man would not necessarily do that or understand the importance of empowering women,” she says. “Just take the issue of polygamy, for instance. There are men who have three or four wives. I have asked myself: If I were one of those wives, how would I feel? Just the thought made me cringe. But it encouraged me to think about the future of these women and their children – especially the children – because the future of this region will depend on them.”

This December 10, 2006 story is adapted from a story written by Misbah Sheik of UNICEF to help promote the agency's annual report on the world’s children, which focuses this year on how gender equality helps both women and children overcome poverty. The full report is entitled The State of the World’s Children 2007: Women and Children: the Double Dividend of Gender Equality.

 

For more stories relating to girls education, see:

Gift of a goat from US schoolchildren leads to Ugandan village’s first college graduate

Girl Child Network empowers the voiceless in Zimbabwe

One man's promise brings hope to remote Central Asian villages

Bangladesh program to enhance girls' access to education inspires other countries

Affordable menstrual pads keep girls in school, create jobs

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