Monday, June 30, 2008

The fight against violence is a long term effort

After a quick glance at Joanne’s blog from Sunday, we realize it’s a bit silly to bore you with two commentaries. So I’m going to infuse my comments into Joanne’s blog and we present it to you as one!

We begin our day by meeting with Mr. Benoit Kalasa, the UNFPA Madagascar Country Representative. He welcomes us to Madagascar and we explain our goals for our visit. We are touched by the enthusiasm that UNFPA has shown for our visit to Madagascar and how happy they truly are that Dr. Rabary has been chosen to be one of the 2008 honorees.

UNFPA works in 22 of the 28 regions of the country and we learn that 70% of UNFPA’s funding in Madagascar is directed towards family planning and health strategies like trying to put an end to maternal death. We learn that the government collaborates closely with UNFPA and has made a national commitment to equality and empowerment.

Next, we meet up with our translator and go to the opening ceremony for Dr. Rabary’s new program with Catholic Research Services. The project is being funded for two years and she reinforces at the beginning of her remarks that “The fight against violence is a long-term effort; it can’t be achieve in one or two years.”

What strikes me (Joanne) most during this press conference is that I had attended a very similar one in the United States in the 1990s, while working as a Capitol Hill staffer. The very same challenges regarding the stigma that surrounds domestic violence in the United States are the very same challenges they are talking about overcoming in Madagascar.

As a media person, I (Angeline) can’t help but notice Dr. Rabary’s powerful sound bites. She speaks of how with domestic violence there is not just one victim; the whole household are victims.

To victims she explains: “This is no longer the time to stay in your corner. You are NOT a dishonor. To give you hope and a ray of light in your life, know you are not alone.”

It is extremely gratifying to see Dr. Rabary receiving recognition and support for her programs from various other non-government organizations and elected officials from around Madagascar. Attending the opening ceremonies are representatives from USAID, UNFPA, several mayors from all over Madagascar, and various media outlets.

Dr. Rabary acknowledges Angeline and me during her presentation and I am a bit taken aback by the excitement and attention we receive from the audience. After the press conference, there is a lovely reception, where many guests inquire about our work with Americans for UNFPA.

After lunch, we meet the cameraman and head to Dr. Rabary’s home to begin taping her story and learn more about why she does the work that she does. Dr. Rabary shows us the very spot the grenade exploded when her home was attacked. Despite the trauma of an attack, she speaks of the incident with a sense of pride: she believes that she must be doing something right if there are people who are so desperate to keep her quiet that they would try to kill her.

During our on-camera interview with Dr. Rabary, we again she that she is a very good spokesperson for her programs and herself. We are starting to get a feel for why Dr. Rabary is so passionate about the work she does.

Angeline and I have dinner at a restaurant that specializes in cooking with Vanilla. While having dinner, a duo entertains the restaurant patrons with Beatle songs. At dinner, I truly don’t feel like I am outside the United States.

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