Four women, four impressive and inspiring backgrounds
These women are opening their world to us to mark this International Women's Day
Nellie Anjaratiana, the quiet strength of Miss Madagascar behind the twins of Mananjary
At 25, Nellie Anjaratiana, originating from Port-Bergé in Northern Madagascar, saw her life turn into a fairy tale, and above all into an opportunity to be an advocate for children's rights, especially the Mananjary twins; they are children abandoned at birth and deprived of rights because of local habits and customs in the South-east of Madagascar.
Elected Miss Madagascar 2020, Nellie Anjaratiana has since been in the spotlight and increased humanitarian and charitable actions.
This young woman settled in France where she has been working in the field of insurance and mutual funds. However, her heart remains in Madagascar to fulfill her obligations since her coronation. "Being a miss is an opportunity for making a contribution to promoting the country internationally. Making the country and its values known is very important, especially for the organization of Miss World," explains Nellie, who is generous and spontaneous.
What makes her stand out is that she takes life as a daily challenge by always trying to improve and be the best version of herself. This helps her have her feet on the ground and stay true to her values.
Behind this quiet strength lies desire to progress and change the world. Nelly intends to make a mobilization for the care centres for rejected twins in Mananjary and to raise international awareness as to the issue with a view to having more resources. Her best dream is to convince the Miss World team in the "Beauty with a purpose" challenge about her project, so as to invite them to Madagascar and see first hand and support this cause.
Her challenge is to prevent children from being abandoned and to provide them a place to go for their protection and where they can grow up in a safer and caring environment. Finally, she would like to convince the parents by taking the children as a blessing but not as a curse. A milestone reached was that the Malagasy State provided support to once-forgotten children.
"Every child has the right to be loved and cared for in order to grow up in a safe and healthy environment," she explains. Sharing and making the whole world known about the case of children in Mananjary is very important for her in order to be able to change something. Being part of a large family, she finds it unfair to condemn children from birth, which urges her to get more involved in the humanitarian field. "Carrying out humanitarian missions is a pleasure for me; that is where I am most comfortable with due to the sharing with those in need."
But the dream does not end there for our young lady. She intends to continue her studies after Miss Madagascar and above all, she would like to continue her charitable and humanitarian actions. Back in Madagascar to prepare for the international Miss World competition, Nellie Anjaratiana wishes all women a happy Women’s Day. "Women are the cradles of life and you are stronger than you think. Believe in yourself and in your abilities. Be true, sincere and be yourself and always convey peace and create your own opportunity," she concludes – as a message to women.
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Officer Miharisoa Barinia looking after Air Force helicopters
Miharisoa Barinia Rakotonirina's background is simply outstanding. She is – no doubt – a real well-rounded soldier. She was the first woman to join the Madagascan air force in 2011 after brilliantly passing the entrance exam for French officer training schools in France. From there, she chose a career to become an aircraft mechanic – a quite logical move after her two years of preparation at the “Ecole Supérieure Polytechnique d'Antananarivo” (ESPA).
Imagine her work table, the Ecureuil AS 350 B2 – one of the helicopters that brought about revolution in aeronautics.
"During my training in France, I had the opportunity to study in a branch that I would never have dared to dream of, but which was open to me at that time, on the condition of working hard of course", she remembers.
When she was younger, she never considered this option even though she thought she had already had all the necessary qualities. Described as very serious and disciplined, respectful of the rules, authoritarian ... (often class delegate), her future was mapped out.
"Having a career in the Air Force has undoubtedly been a way for me to reconcile my personality with my strengths. According to the feedback from my elders at ESPA, it is still difficult to be taken seriously in the professional area when you are a woman, scientific and when you want to access the job market. I did not want to be at the mercy of future recruiters who would look down on me or who would prefer to give the position to a man who has the same skills as me if the opportunity arises. I wanted to promote my intellectual achievements and I succeeded while competing against more than 1000 candidates … I was the only one who succeeded," she continues.
But the road was not easy as she could imagine. Nothing has been achieved yet. "Already at the training school, I was a victim of both sexism and racism. Enduring both kinds of discrimination on a daily basis took me out of my comfort zone. Every day has been a struggle to demonstrate that I am up to the task and that I have my place. The hardest thing for a woman in the army is knowing that 80% of the men around us think that we are stealing the place from other men who should have had their place in the institution. I was tested and was the one who best took up the challenge. As a result, I definitely deserve my place," she explains.
At the end of the training, at 21, returning to the country was not going to be easy at all for Miharisoa. The Malagasy mentality is still very much rooted in patriarchy. It is already difficult for young men to be accepted and gain respect from subordinates with more than 20-year experience, but for a woman it is even harder. "I was a sub-lieutenant and my first posting was at my air base. Some people didn't mince their words in making me understand that I am the same age as their daughter and that they have no orders to receive from me. However, it does not work that way; army regulations are based on respect for rank, more than for the person. I was able to overcome all of that with perseverance by setting an example each time for my peers, by not allowing myself be destabilized, by highlighting my skills and above all, by never letting my weaknesses shine through. At first, it's hard because to keep the mask, you have the impression that you have to become a whole different person. Then, the habit becomes second nature and you become that tough, rigorous person who never gives up," she continues.
Currently, Miharisoa has already acquired ten-year experience and there are still so many challenges. Her current feeling is that a woman has to put in twice as much effort as a man to gain the same consideration and respect. On the one hand, this situation has urged her to always surpass herself and never rest on her laurels. It should be noted that the Malagasy army integrated women a little less than 20 years ago. During these two decades, like her female comrades, she has had her share of bullying and discrimination, battles to wage in given fields, in addition to the career choice they have made, which is already not easy. Continuously fighting to ensure better integration of women into the future armed forces was more than a goal.
"What motivates me to go further is my belief in the effectiveness of equal rights between men and women. It is often mistakenly believed that this demand is intended to propel certain women to positions they do not deserve or to devalue men. The reality is that as a woman, I have essential and relevant contributions to bring to my institution. It's about working together to make the world a better place. Apart from being responsible for the maintenance of Air Force helicopters, I am also in charge of training the next generation of air force maintenance technicians. My motivation lies in the fact that what I do contributes to the perpetuation of know-how and interpersonal skills within several generations of soldiers and to the effectiveness of the operationalization of the strategies put in place at the level of the Army Chief of Staff. Today, I am proud of my journey. Of course, I still have a lot to accomplish and a lot to improve, but I feel that I am on the right track to raise the voice and the values of the Malagasy woman.
"For women, we must always challenge ourselves, never remain inactive, not rest on our laurels, fight the status quo. Do not accept to be locked in the boxes that society dictates to us, because once we put that in our head, it's like a virus that destroys us from the inside; it destroys our unlimited potential that we must discover", concludes the one who w ants to be a Base Commander for an air base or even a Chief of Staff of the Army.
Neny Rasoa, a fighter with her legendary 2CV Citroën
Who does not know Celestine Randriambololona alias Neny Rasoa. She has been driving through the streets of the capital with her Citroën 2CV for almost thirty years. Known as a fulfilled woman by those close to her and her clients, she has spent years struggling to find her place in society, especially in the world of work.
"I remember my beginnings. I was only 30 years old. A young woman trying to find her place in a man's world," she recalls with a smile on her face. She always remembers the pitfalls and mockery of other people throughout her career as a taxiwoman.
Today, this grandmother of three is quite proud of the path she has been able to take so far. She is doing the job of her dreams which allows her to make ends meet. Recognized and admired by many clients and residents of the capital, Neny Rasoa plans to continue her work.
Among the female taxi drivers, Neny Rasoa is the most loyal. Experiencing the context of COVID-19 poses another challenge for her. Wearing a mask and using hydroalcoholic gel, she too does not escape from this golden rule for preventing this pandemic.
"There was a time when she really stopped working when the COVID statistics in Madagascar were alarming," says Volasoa Randriambololona, her daughter who sees her mother as a mother hen and also a struggling mother. She passed on to her three children this combative spirit.
Before, her car was disinfected every day, but now its disinfection is carried out weekly. She has a message for women: "Love what you do and be inspired… be yourself".
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Matina Razafimahefa, behind the scenes of digital education for African youth
A journey that can inspire young people, especially girls. Born in Ivory Coast and raised in Madagascar, Matina Razafimahefa left her heart in Africa. Although she left Madagascar at age 10 to study tennis, she is very attached to the country.
After her studies in political science at La Sorbonne Paris, she launched SAYNA, her start-up, and then devoted herself definitively thereto. "I discovered the French public high school at the age of 15 and it was from there that my entrepreneurial adventure began. I joined La Sorbonne in Paris in political science and then started SAYNA during my second year. So I decided to stop my studies to focus 100% on SAYNA".
This young girl is a ball of energy. Her ambition is to provide millions of Africans with access to quality digital education and work opportunities around the world. It is in this sense that she is working with her organization SAYNA to make education in the new technologies accessible to millions of Africans. SAYNA provides everyone work opportunities in the digital industry without the resume being a barrier.
After having experienced a difficult journey, Matina never gave up. Currently, she is proud to have made progress, grown up, gone through many steps that have brought her to the person she is today.
Being perseverant, her efforts were rewarded since she won 2nd place in the Anzisha Prize in 2020, which rewards the innovations of young African entrepreneurs.
"This award has instilled a lot of pride for my country, my family, my team and SAYNA. This price is that of my company, not mine. It’s a reward for all the hard work over the past three years, so it’s very rewarding," emphasizes Matina, who remains focused on her goals. "Anzisha did not change my ambition but just accelerated the implementation of this ambition," she continues.
For later, the youngest of the Razafimahefa would like to create profitable businesses that will change the daily lives of millions of people by creating jobs.
She does not intend to stop there and her vision is to revolutionize access to the labour market via a crowdsourcing solution and to make education in the new technologies accessible to all via internet at very attractive prices.
"My vision is not limited to the promotion of Malagasy youth… but also and above all for African youth. I see a youth which is in a precarious state in the world – a youth that can be found all over the world, as UNICEF knows well. As a Malagasy entrepreneur, I want to show that we can have ambitions that go beyond our own borders. There are times when I feel lonely, that's for sure. But I remember that I have a community that believes in me, a team that is there to fight alongside me, shareholders who believe in me, and above all in the vision that we share," says Matina.
Her faith and confidence help her move forward just like her parents and also her boyfriend.
"Everyone plays his role in helping me move forward, so that we can win together",
Like millions of young women, 8 March is a day to celebrate Women's struggles. "Believe in yourself, take risks, surround yourself with people who make you grow up and be the best version of yourself!"