“Women Break the Silence” project: A $24,500 funding awarded by the U.S. Department of State to a Malagasy team of young leaders.

Wednesday, 30 December 2020
The five members of the Malagasy team The five members of the Malagasy team U.S. Embassy Madagascar

The awardees from the 10th edition of the U.S. Department of State`s Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) have been announced. Marie Christina Kolo and her team were listed among this year`s 80 winning teams from 67 countries. The 2020 edition of AEIF focused on “women, peace and security”, and the Malagasy team`s “Women Break the Silence” project stood out and has been accepted for a funding of USD 24,500.

“Women Break the Silence”: a support to gender-based violence victims … or `survivors`.

According to a study carried out by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Madagascar this year, the magnitude of domestic, sexual, psychological, and economic violence has dramatically increased during the lockdown period in Madagascar. Even if the numbers have not been officially declared, it can be estimated that around 26 percent of the survivors have suffered from sexual violence. Back to the latest data available from 2018 Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), 14 percent of Malagasy women aged 15-49 have been victims of sexual violence at least once.

The “Women Break the Silence” project provides support to victims of sexual violence and seeks to combat the stigma around sexual assault. The project also aims to raise awareness of laws against gender-based violence. This third point is more than relevant now that a law on gender-based violence has been promulgated and a penal chain for gender-based violence (CPA-VBG) has been established in Madagascar. The team`s project will be implemented in Antananarivo, Antsiranana, Toamasina, Ambovombe, Fianarantsoa, Nosy-Be, and Mahajanga, and is expected to be launched in January 2021.

In this project, Marie Christina Kolo and her team will collect testimonies and data on sexual harassment and sexual assault mainly in high schools and universities. Those data will be used to create art, board games, and other innovative tools to raise awareness about sexual violence and help victims move through their trauma. Kolo explains that victims of sexual violence should not consider themselves as victims but rather as “survivors”.

Useful link: Discover a testimony from a rape survivor here.

A winning team made up of YALI alumni

The “Women Break the Silence” project will be led by Marie Christina Kolo, a 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow, and at the same time an alumnus from the YALI Regional Leadership Center Southern Africa (YALI RLC SA) in 2016. Kolo is a social entrepreneur; she founded Green`N`Kool, a social business that works with vulnerable women and former sex workers in Madagascar. She is also known as an ecofeminist and climate activist, co-founder Ecofeminism Madagascar, a national platform that promotes gender inclusion in climate change discussions.

Kolo is supported by a team of YALI committed leaders including three Mandela Washington Fellows – Riambelo Onjaniaina Rasamimanana (2019), Daniela Loberline Ratiarisoa (2019), and Rado Harintsoa Rakotosamimanana (2017) – and one alumnus from the YALI RLC SA program, Tsimihipa Andriamazavarivo (2018).

As a reminder, AEIF provides funding to projects led by alumni of U.S. sponsored and facilitated exchange programs. Applying teams can be made up of two or more alumni from different programs including YALI, IVLP (International Visitor Leadership Program), Fulbright, or Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program. Collaboration between alumni is greatly recommended in the AEIF competition. Riambelo Onjaniaina Rasamimanana, a team member and country director for the Women Lead Movement in Madagascar explains how natural it is for them to support each other, and that they share the same goal and value collaboration over competition.

Kolo`s team is the 5th Malagasy AEIF awardee after Ketakandriana Rafitoson (IVLP) in 2012, Mirana Razafindramboa (Fulbright) in 2015, Adrienne Andriantsialonina (YALI) in 2016, and Manoa Rakotoarison (YALI) in 2018.

Since its inception in 2011, AEIF has funded nearly 500 alumni-led projects around the world. AEIF supports alumni initiatives that promote shared values and innovative solutions to global challenges. As ECA Assistant Secretary of State Marie Royce said in a video, “AEIF takes the value of exchange programs further,” giving alumni the tools they need to support their local communities and a chance to apply the skills they developed on their exchange programs.

Source: U.S. Embassy in Madagascar Press Release – UNFPA Madagascar

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