Mahery is on the road to recovery

Mahery, 8, was forced to leave his home six months ago because his mother repeatedly subjected him to physical violence

Mahery est debout à l'entrée du centre CDEF Collectif pour les droits de l'enfant et de la famille
11 March 2019

Mahery, 8, was removed from his home six months ago because his mother repeatedly subjected him to physical violence. Originally from a town in southern Madagascar, Mahery had lived with his grandparents since his mother left him behind to move to Mahajanga with her partner. His ordeal began when his grandparents sent him to join his mother seven months ago so that he could go to school. From time to time his mother would take him with her to the local bar where she worked as a waitress, so that he could help her.

Mahery has never seen the inside of a school. His daily life took place between the kitchen, the market and the fountain where he collected water every day. Despite being young and small, Mahery was well able to perform these tasks demanded by his mother. According to the people around him, who observed him regularly, he is a "great little guy". However, when his mother was in a bad mood, she beat him violently with a broomstick. This violence became more and more frequent over time. Mahery calls his mother "big sister", probably because of a lack of attachment between then. "At the time, my big sister was pregnant. She loved pickles and I had to buy some for her every day. However, she always found a pretext to hit me when I came home”, he recounts.

Like Mahery, 9 in 10 children have been subjected to at least one form of physical or psychological punishment

Last August, Mahery’s mother beat him repeatedly, locked him in the house and left him there to return only the next morning. Hearing the child’s cries for help, community members from his neighbourhood came to see what was happening. They had to break the door to get Mahery out, hurt from head to toe. He was immediately taken to the emergency shelter run by CDEF (“the collective for the rights of the child and the family”). Mahery was treated by a doctor and found refuge.

According to the findings of a national study published in 2018, in Madagascar in general, as in Mahajanga, violence is a daily reality for many children. Like Mahery, nine in ten children have been subjected to at least one form of physical or psychological punishment. The Ministry of Population, UNICEF and other child protection actors are working together to put in place a functioning child protection system to prevent and respond to violence against children. In Mahajanga, the Child Protection Network, of which CDEF is a member, forms an essential part of this system. The Child Protection Network brings together several entities including government ministries, the police, the court, civil society organisations. They work in different sectors but have created a remarkable synergy to protect children.

UNICEF Madagascar

Thanks to this child protection system, Mahery’s case was reported, and he was referred for care and support, which meant that he benefited from medical, psychosocial and legal care and support. The case is currently being dealt with by the court and CDEF is trying to find a solution for his future, either reuniting him with his grandparents, or with his mother, with close psycho-social support and follow-up. But until he returns to a more stable situation, he will remain in the center run by CDEF, where he has a roof over his head, a bed, hot meals, literacy classes, and other children with whom he can have fun. The little guy has found a smile, but his path is still long. "I want to become a construction engineer," says Mahery. He is now on the road to recovery, and with continued support, and the ability to go to school, he may just be able to achieve this dream.

* The name has been changed to protect the child