In May 2023, CARE visited Madagascar and met with the FPFE (Fédération pour la Protection Féminine et Enfantine – the Federation for the Protection of Women and Children), an association supported by Feminists in Action. The FPFE is running a project to promote women’s political participation in Madagascar. We interviewed the FPFE’s National Coordinator, Céline Marie Yolande VIA, and their Monitoring and Evaluation Manager, Phostinah PAPISY.
Could you tell us about your association and its missions?
Yolande VIA: The FPFE was created in 2007 and went national in 2016. Our founding mission was to unite the women involved in the celebrations of Women’s Rights Day. We wanted to develop a project that would help these women grow on a human and economic level.
In 2008, we set up a center to provide counseling, legal advice, medical and psychological care, and assistance for women victims of violence. As a legal expert, this project was of special interest to me because I wanted to help women who do not know their rights.
Our association’s program focuses on four core areas:
- the UN’s Peace and Security Agenda;
- educational and economic justice;
- the environment, climate change, and sustainability;
- women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Our work is centered around all aspects of women’s rights. That is our job! We must take care of our bodies, our education (i.e., girls and boys are not treated equally in terms of schooling, and many girls drop out of school), etc.
How did Feminists in Action support your association?
Yolande VIA: We received our first grant in 2022, which helped us reinvigorate our organization on a regional level. The Feminists in Action project allowed us to open new branches in 15 regions. Thanks to this grant, we are better acquainted with one another and better equipped to unite our efforts in the fight against gender-based violence and promote children’s and women’s rights.
Phostinah PAPISY: We received a second grant in 2023, which is currently funding our advocacy campaign for a law on women’s inclusion in decision-making positions. The Malagasy Parliament adopted the first bill, largely thanks to the advocacy of Malagasy associations like ours. But unfortunately, it was declared unconstitutional by the Malagasy Supreme Constitutional Court (Haute Cour Constitutionnelle – HCC).
However, we will persevere. We intend to present a new bill, incorporating some improvements and new wording in line with the observations made by the HCC, and we hope that it will be approved this time. In drafting, we collaborate with civil society organizations, anthropologists, sociologists, the local police, and constitutional attorneys. We are gathering ideas from all these stakeholders to ensure that everyone’s input is considered, including that of ordinary citizens. Then, we will submit our new draft to constitutional experts for review. After revision by the experts, the FPFE will push for the law to be presented to Parliament in hopes that the HCC will ratify it this time.
We are fairly optimistic, but this bill remains a significant challenge given Madagascar’s current political and economic climate. In any case, we hope to see our action succeed and the real impact of this law on the population and decision-makers. Ultimately, the goal is to balance the rights and obligations of men and women. It should be noted that Madagascar ratified several international treaties. However, what we need now is practical implementation. We expect this law to have tangible effects: our priority is to improve women’s living conditions.
The bill is essentially about women’s participation in decision-making. In what way could this new law improve the living conditions of women?
Phostinah PAPISY: The general objective of this law is to foster women’s participation in political and economic decision-making, which we see as an effective way to fight for women’s rights. Its specific objective is to help reduce violence against women. And who knows what women need better than women themselves? Nothing will ever get done if we, as women, are not involved in decision-making. We must be present everywhere to make things change! The goal is to see women reach their full potential. We need to make our voices heard.