Unstoppable: 10 young women use a TedX event to send a powerful message to Madagascar’s youth

“All of the speakers spoke so passionately about injustice and breaking the barriers to reach their objectives.”

Fanja Saholiarisoa
17 October 2019

Seventeen-year-old Finarita was the first speaker to take the stage during a recent TedX Youth event in Madagascar, and as she shared the story of her childhood the capacity audience listened intently. Now a well know and celebrated tennis player, Finaritra bravely recounted a period of anguish which is sadly familiar to many young people.

“I was bullied at school because of my weight,” she told the crowd at a hotel in the capitol Antananarivo. “People used to tease me with stupid names like the whale, sweet potato, or even the big cow. I was only seven and it destroyed my confidence and self-esteem.”

But the abuse did not stop Finaritra from pursuing her goals. According to her, these stupid remarks made her strong. “I thank all the persons who hated me as you encouraged me to go further,” said Finaritra.

Several other speakers also recounted difficult periods in their lives and how they overcame them. “I lost my mother when I was four-years-old, and my life was a nightmare until I was 12 years old,” said 17-year-old Christella who is now member of a UNICEF supported program called Junior Reporters Club in the south of Madagascar. Together with other young journalists she produces a weekly radio program that seeks to inform children and youth about their rights.

Finaritra and Christella were among 10 speakers who took part in the TEDx event organized by UNICEF and UNFPA during International Day of the Girl. Titled Ampela Unstoppable, using the Malagasy word for girl, the program revealed 10 different characters of unstoppable girls from across the country and with different backgrounds, who came together to break barriers and advocate for girl’s rights.

Girls should not be prevented from anything because of their status.

Lanto, 18

“Girls should not be prevented from anything because of their status. They have all the rights and need to be empowered,” explained Lanto, one of the speakers who was affected by community discrimination because of her skin color and her weight. She is now working on a program to sensitize parents and children about school bullying.

While bullying was a topic touched on by several of the speakers, Landy, 18, addressed overcoming cultural expectations based on gender.

“Here in Madagascar many people believe that women are not made for education, and certainly not for science,” she told the crowd and the hundreds of others watching via Facebook live. “I seem to have the ability to easily talk to people and inspire them and so my family assumed that I would go on to become a pastor.” Instead Landy is now one of Madagascar’s leading young robotics experts.

This was the third TEDX event organized in Antananarivo, following those held in 2012 and 2015. “Children and youth need to have platform to raise their voices and I am happy that these girls could represent the other eight million Malagasy girls living in similar situations: being forced to marry, deprived their rights to education, or being bullied,” said Andriankoto Ratozamanana, a TED Fellow, and one of the event’s organizers. “All of the speakers spoke so passionately about injustice and breaking the barriers to reach their objectives. It really resonated with the audience and beyond.”

The event was organized by UNICEF Madagascar as part of the celebrations to mark the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which will culminate on November 20th – World Children’s Day - with a live broadcast of a children’s debate at the national parliamentary.

View the talks on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLyt3ZQImLR9o3ZOPS8IuFDFzWceCaZUUP