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“My name is Marie. I am 40 and I live in the Sakaraha district, a mining town in the South of Madagascar. I had a partner who was also the father of my son. We were not married. I was what is commonly known here as "Valy Safira" (Sapphire Wife - referring to the precious stones, which are the object of mining here), a woman who lives with a man without any official or legitimate link. He had the right to go wherever he wanted with whoever he wanted. But as he is the father of my child, according to the culture here, I could not leave him, it would be a shame for the family, a shame at the community level and I also do not have any financial stability to support my child.


To contribute to the household expenses, I had to be running a small eatery. In the past, I used to borrow pots, bowls and equipment from my aunts or my mother to keep it going. Many times, I asked my partner to help me financially so I can buy my own utensils but he always refused, saying he had no money, and this would be followed by insults and beatings. According to him, I always had to depend on someone, if it wasn't him, it would have to be other family members.


As months went by, one of my neighbours advised me to come to the Listening and Legal Counselling Centre (CECJ) in Sakaraha. It was this Centre that opened my eyes, through the detailed information on my rights and the psychosocial support I benefitted from. After this betrayal by my partner, I decided to be independent and to take care of my child by myself. Besides, with or without him, my financial situation remained the same. Thanks to the Centre's advice and the training on cooking and running a small eatery near the Centre itself, I have acquired more skills to improve my business.


I consider myself very lucky because at the end of this training, I was also given all the utensils and equipment needed for my business. It's all mine now, I don't depend on anyone, and I'm so happy about it. Most importantly, I can look ahead into the future with more peace of mind. If I have a message to pass on to women who are victims of violence, it is that they should not hesitate to come to the Centre to regain their dignity and learn about their rights.


The Sakaraha CECJ is one of the centres targeted by the project funded by the Kingdom of Norway in partnership with the Ministry of Population and Women’s Empowerment and UNFPA. The Sakaraha district includes a dozen sapphire mining sites in southern Madagascar. Harmful traditional practices in addition to the frenzy surrounding gemstone mining are taking a huge toll on human rights, especially for women and children.