3 June 2008

Madagascar: Local Women 'Wake Up' to Their Rights

Photo: Tomas de Mul/IRIN
More than three quarters of the country's 20 million people now live on less than $1 a day.

Rabary is a passionate advocate for women's rights and human rights. She is the president of the nationwide non-governmental organization S.O.S. to Human Rights Victims, which was created in 1999 to assist victims of human rights abuses in Madagascar.

S.O.S. also works to educate citizens of this island nation in the Indian Ocean about their rights.

In 2003, in collaboration with women law graduates in the city of Fianarantsoa, S.O.S opened Madagascar's first legal clinic that counsels primarily women. Named Mifohaza (Wake Up), the clinic educates women about their inheritance, family, domestic and work rights. The clinic, which handles more than 2,000 cases per year, is a proven success in a country plagued by corruption and a weak judiciary system.

Rabary and her legal experts also travel around the county to raise public awareness of human rights and to handle cases involving domestic violence, land issues, torture under interrogation and other issues.

Rabary has fought for human rights both inside and outside Madagascar's government. She has taught human rights at Madagascar's School of Nursing and Midwifery since 1995, and from 1994 to 1996 worked as the director of well-being of families and children at the Ministry of Population. From 1998 to 2002, she was a member of the National Assembly.

In 2002, she took her fight to protect human rights to the international level by filing a lawsuit with the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights against violations of human rights in Madagascar.

The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized her work. In the same year, Rabary initiated the first international colloquium on human rights in the Indian Ocean region.

She spoke in Geneva in 2004 before the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination about racial intolerance in Madagascar. In 2007, she represented Malagasy civil society before the U.N High Commissioner for Human Rights on the issue of torture in Madagascar.

Rabary was nominated for the U.S. Secretary of State's 2008 Women of Courage Award. The award, founded in 2007 by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, celebrates exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women's rights and advancement.

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