I am off to see UNFPA field programs in Madagascar and witness firsthand the tremendous impact that with the support of UNFPA, local women like Dr. Mathilde Rabary is able to have on her community. I must say, it is bittersweet that the last email that I received before my flight departed was an announcement that for the 7th consecutive year the Bush Administration had decided to withhold Congressionally allocated funds from UNFPA.
Determined not to feel defeated, I am even more excited to meet Dr. Rabary and share her story with Americans. Dr. Mathilde Rabary, one of three winners of our International Award for the Health and Dignity of Women, works to promote justice and rights of women – particularly victims of domestic violence- in Madagascar. Over the next week, as you read these updates, hopefully you’ll facebook a friend, or send them our blogspot link, and help spread this message to those who may not be as familiar with UNFPA’s work. And, I’m hopeful that as we spread the impact of UNFPA’s work beyond that of the 100k or so Americans for UNFPA’s supporters, that together we’ll be able to encourage our next President to restore U.S. support for UNFPA.
As for the plane ride, it was about 18 hours, and I think I ate more bread and cheese during that time than I have in the last 3 months. As you might guess based on that, I was flying Air France. It wasn’t as nearly as exciting a flight as the last one I took—there were no celebrity sighting, like Usher, who was on a flight with me earlier this month….
By the time I arrived in Madagascar it was nearly midnight on Friday. I was based in the Capital City- Antananarivo--- Tana for short. I was a bustling city: lots of traffic, lots of people and like many major cities, both extreme poverty and extreme wealth.
On Saturday, while I was supposed to be recovering from jet lag (which I like to pretend doesn’t’ exist) I wandered into town for some lunch and I couldn’t help but laugh when the first song I heard was “Africa.” Cheesily, that was of course the song running through my own head throughout the week prior as I prepared for the trip.
The song blared through the streets- a sound I actually like. It gave the area a real community feel. When I first moved to New York, I was staying with a friend in Brooklyn, and I loved the Latin tunes that her neighbors would play every Saturday afternoon. It made me want to go dance in the streets with them and the familiarity of the sound made me feel welcome—both in Brooklyn and Tana.
As I stopped in a convenience store to pick up some water, I was even more surprised to hear, in succession, No One- by Alicia Keys and Too Late by Chris Brown. Just one more reminder that though we sometimes think of Madagascar as worlds away… or experiences aren’t so different.
Friday, June 27, 2008