Breaking the silence on sexual exploitation of Malagasy girls in Madagascar: Interview with Dr Annick Andriamaro from ECPAT France
“In the three areas of prevention, protection and advocacy, our project aims to break the silence surrounding the sexual exploitation of girls.”
In Madagascar, violence against women and girls, including rape and other forms of gender-based violence, is tragically common but rarely discussed.
Supported by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund), ECPAT France is leading a project to protect Malagasy women and girl survivors of sexual abuse and exploitation, including self-identified sex-workers, as well as women human rights defenders, in six regions of Madagascar.
Informed by a previous project also funded by the UN Trust Fund, ECPAT France aims to empower girl survivors through a reinsertion programme, improved protection services and reporting, community awareness-raising, and access to justice.
We talked with Dr Annick Andriamaro, Country Director of ECPAT France in Madagascar.
What is the goal of the project this time around?
This project was developed as a response to the alarming persistence of gender-based and sexual violence against women and girls in Madagascar, rooted in gender inequalities, harmful social norms and a lack of awareness of the rights of women and girls.
Our project focuses on preventing and addressing the different forms of sexual violence and sexual exploitation of girls, from child marriage to human trafficking.
To tackle the root causes of this problem, we are developing a collaboration strategy with various partners and key stakeholders such as government officials, civil society organizations, child protection networks, and girls and women. The aim is to support women and girls in reclaiming their rights and to ensure all stakeholders are aware of their responsibilities and involved in ending violence against women and girls.
How did the first project inform this scaled-up second-generation project?
The first project, also supported by the UN Trust Fund, was a pilot project that enabled us to develop relevant actions and tools to prevent and protect girls from sexual exploitation, including a care protocol for survivors of sexual exploitation and support staff.
Through an in-depth study on sexual violence, self-identified sex workers and sexual exploitation of children in Madagascar and the specific needs of survivors, as well as the project’s final evaluation, we were able to identify good practices, challenges and lessons learned from the pilot project. As a result, we revised the number and content of prevention sessions, focusing more on an intersectional approach and partnering with relevant ministries.
In this second project, most of the beneficiaries of the previous project have become stakeholders who will receive technical support to implement peer-based activities.
In addition, we are expanding our geographical reach to support more girl survivors of sexual exploitation.
Can you tell us more about this intersectional approach?
Our new project adopts an intersectional approach that focuses on young women and girls, and self-identified sex-workers. They receive psychosocial support (on self-esteem, listening, empowerment, life skills and so on) as well as medical support.
We also support them in defining their life projects, through vocational training, reintegration into employment and/or the development of individual or joint income-generating activities, to help them break out of the cycle of exploitation. In other words, we empower them to become independent.
How is tackling gender norms and stereotypes part of the project?
Tackling the root causes is a strategic lever for preventing sexual exploitation and abuse of children. From an early age, the project educates and equips young people with the knowledge they need to protect themselves and raise awareness among their peers.
We conduct various awareness-raising sessions where harmful sexist stereotypes are dealt with in depth. For instance, we have developed a “sex education and gender equity” activity for children and young people aged 14 to 21 in schools and neighbourhoods. We train local partners, in collaboration with government ministries, to enable them to conduct awareness-raising sessions.
We have also developed an “action reflection group” on new masculinities for a total of 4160 men, to deconstruct harmful gender stereotypes through debate and reflection.
The whole project contributes to building gender equity against gender-based violence.