We empower marginalised women to promote gender equality and create alternative livelihoods
In rural Southwest Madagascar, fishing is traditionally a male-dominated occupation in rural coastal villages, with women restricted to reef gleaning in the intertidal region. With few other jobs available, women are therefore heavily dependent on male counterparts for food security and income, and are consequently marginalised in their community.
Our aquaculture programme provides new sustainable livelihood opportunities for women in coastal communities. Since sea cucumber cultivation takes place in the intertidal zone, it is an accessible activity for women, and our programme encourages their participation. In generating their own income, women gain independence and are more respected in the social and cultural life of their communities. Women are also being trained as seaweed farming technicians, equipping them with the skills and knowledge to educate and empower other women in the community.
Ifaty & Tsivonoe Women’s Association
To address the marginalisation of women in the region, we created two local Women’s Associations, for the villages of Ifaty (in 2007) and Tsivonoe (in 2011). This initiative initially introduced local women to sources of alternative income, arts, and crafts training (to sell artisanal products to tourists), and provided solar ovens. Ifaty Women’s Association is now working with Reef Doctor to implement new projects that aim to improve the lives of women and provide them with a form of supplemental income. This association is not currently funded by Reef Doctor; these women are self-sufficient and take responsibility to ensure that their activities successful. The groups represent the wider community at local and regional events through the performance of song and dance; they also act as Reef Doctor Ambassadors, alongside our Junior Reef Doctors, and support our various awareness raising and education days. We are currently working with them to organise community beach cleans in Ifaty.
Mamelo Honko Women’s Association
Founded in 2010, with help and encouragement from Honko’s original founders, a group of 10 women came together to create the Mamelo Honko Women’s Association, an artisanal weaving group with the purpose to sell their products to tourists that visited the mangroves. The women were trained in reed weaving techniques and business skills, such as record-keeping. Since then the association has gained more members and a shop has been built adjacent to the mangrove site for them to weave and sell their products in. All the money earned from sales go straight to the women’s association. The Reef Doctor Honko Project continues to work closely with the association to build their capacity to run the business on their own, including financial management, book keeping, and customer relations. In 2017, a new shop was opened in the commune of Belalanda dedicated to the women’s association. At this location, they have a more visible place on the roadside where they can expose their products to not only tourists, but also the local market.
Investing and promoting sport is particular meaningful for local women. In our region, most of the women do not have any hobbies or anything to do outside of their regular work of taking care of the home. Ifaty women’s rugby team was set up by local man Elias as a way to keep the Ifaty women out of sex tourism by providing them with a positive activity. And the sport has caught on. While the main goal is still keeping the young girls away from prostitution, the team’s growth has provided the girls the chance to dream of a better future. Some women from Ifaty have already been recruited for the national team, which has created a sense of determination and pride among girls who previously didn’t have many people to look up to. Over the years we have worked with Elias and invested into women sports to empower women, increase motivation and general well-being, and open doors to opportunities outside normal village life.