A mother’s commitment to caring for her disabled children is supported by a cash-transfer program
In southern Madagascar, Raharisoa Marie Léonie works offer her six children a dignified and happy life.
In the commune of Tataho in the south-east of Madagascar, we meet Raharisoa Marie Léonie, 45, mother of six children, three of whom are severely disabled. They live in a village located in the middle of the woods and under the canopy and with a light drizzle falling, Léonie prepares pepper fritters that she will sell in the town. In this way, she earns a small income, on a good day, enough to feed her children. “I have two children with disabilities, but my grandson, whom I take care of, has also been disabled since birth,” explains Léonie.
Daily life is a series of challenges, made harder since the death of her husband eight years ago. She is supported by her mother who helps her take care of these children. Freddy, 22, Tenaina, 8, and Léonce, 3, are affected by physical and mental disabilities. Their handicaps mean Léonie must constantly watch over them. “It’s hard to find enough food to feed them three times a day and take care of them. It's not an easy task, but being a mother also means knowing how to face life as it is presented to us," she confides.
An inclusive program for equal chance
Léonie and her family benefit from a universal cash transfer program called “Zara Mira”, which is supported by UNICEF. This social protection program provides families with a cash payment of 10,000 ariary, or about $2.50, for each child under the age of 18 and for each pregnant woman. People with severe disabilities receive 30,000 ariary. The program supports 1,600 households, including 4,500 children. Financial support comes from donors, such as the Kingdom of Norway, and Stefan and Susan Findel. It is managed by the government, which hopes to extend it to additional beneficiaries in the south of Madagascar.
With the assistance she receives, Léonie has been able to buy chickens for breeding, and is now able to pay school fees for her children who are studying in the nearby town of Manakara. She was also able to repair her house which was damaged by cyclone Batsirai in February 2022. The cash transfers are supported by a life skills program that seeks to empower families to raise healthy children and manage their household finances. “This aid has opened up new opportunities for us,” says Léonie. “I love all my children even if sometimes I feel overwhelmed by fatigue. My wish is that all of them will be able to live happy lives.”