Wednesday, July 2, 2008

SOS victimes du non droit

This morning we started the day seeing Dr. Rabary’s actual program “SOS victimes du non droit". Back in 1994 a woman was raped by 4 police officers and Dr. Rabary helped the woman. Soon after, Dr. Rabary set up a clinic in her home, realizing that many people didn’t know about their rights. She applied for UNFPA funding for the 1st legal advocacy center in Madagascar. She found 2 lawyers, who at the time agreed to work for free and Dr. Rabary’s own children helped with administrative work.

We met with the women that work at SOS and spoke to several victims and NGO partners that have benefitted from Dr. Rabary’s work.

We learned that one of the major problems is that in Madagascar most things are told orally—there is little documentation. Without documentation it is difficult to present a case. At SOS they give courage and support to victims to write a letter of complaint and press charges and they also help with amicable settlements. Like in the U.S. court processes are very arduous, and so the Center does feel like sometimes “Bad amicable solutions” and better than a “good trial” because there is less trauma and quicker resolutions.

The cases are not easy. In the case of battering, women now need to provide a medical certificate to prove it. On top of that, the certificate costs 6,000 Arial.

UNFPA helped Dr. Rabary produce a series of pamphlets on Justice, Access to Land, Family Law and Access to Work to provide women with the educational tools for empowerment.

From there we grabbed lunch at an Indian restaurant—there is a large Indian population in the U.S. I’ll note that they had music videos and good old “Usher” was on the screen. So not on my flight, per say, but still on the big screen in Tana.

We next hit the Justice Department’s Anti-Corruption Division. Dr. Rabary has made great strides in getting the Anti-corruption division to work with her to change the attitudes of the local police departments towards domestic violence. In fact, to their credit the Anti-Corruption division did a public opinion survey of the people of Madagascar to find out their experiences with the police has been and what is really going on at various police stations. What was more astounding was that they made this report public to anyone who wanted to read it. Dr. Rabary has partnered with the Anti-Corruption Division to make recommendations on what changes need to be made by the police in handling domestic violence issues. I had to admit I was a bit surprised that they let us film this discussion and that they talked to us about the various problems they face in changing the culture of the police department. To me that shows a real commitment to change.

After the Anti-corruption Division, we attend a dinner at Dr. Rabary’s house with her children and grandchildren. What a wonderful opportunity to talk to Dr. Rabary’s family and hear how they see her work. They are extremely proud of her, and as one son told us, “It is great validation for us, to have our mom receive this award from Americans for UNFPA because there were many times when she faced adversity that we suggested that she find other work that was less dangerous and more rewarding. Now we can see how Dr. Rabary’s work has truly made a difference not only in Madagascar, but around the world as well.” We were both overwhelmed by the generosity and hospitality of our hosts and enjoyed the evening immensely.

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