I am because they did…

My name is Sthela Gun Holly Hanitrinirina, I am 24 years old, Volunteer Youth Liaison in Malagasy Lutheran Church. This was my first experience in United Nation and at the Commission for Status of Women.

Women Department at Mahamanina Lutheran Church Congregation in Fianarantsoa, Madagascar

Women Department at Mahamanina Lutheran Church Congregation in Fianarantsoa, Madagascar

20 years ago, when I was 4 years old, 5,000 men and women, was gathered in Beijing, China for the 4th world Conference of Women. Now it is, 2015, I am 24, and we are celebrated the Beijing Platform at the Commission for the status of Women CSW 59. Being in the CSW 59 is witnessed the effort of many women, 20 years ago, and heard that the world is moving toward change even if it is slowly. Change is two steps forward and one step back.  If I have greater ability to vote, speak out my mind, wear pants, know my rights, get education than my 29 years old cousin, it is because I was raised after the Beijing platform 20 years. So being at the United Nation, for the women Status is standing for the next generation. If we want to reach our goal, seeing women, free, claiming their rights, then we must start today, with you and me.

Two months ago, March 4th, 2015, I took the late flight from Antananarivo, Madagascar to New York, United States.  There I was, in the middle of Manhattan, New York, US, representing the the voice of my Lutheran sisters, jet lagged but excited to learn and hear people’s stories. I was at the United Nation, for the commission for status of Women 2015 CSW 59 with the great opportunity to learn and expand my knowledge about women and our rights. One of my biggest challenges was to hear things that are taboo in Madagascar. But it is empowering to know that Madagascar and the other African nations are not the only ones who want gender equality.  It is an issue for everyone from the richest country to the poorest country.

i am 20

During the two weeks of workshop, I focused my CSW 59 experience on Education and Training women and Girls, and Violence against Women (VAW). The workshop, I attended were mostly about Gender Based Violence, breakthrough cultures, women and girls education and women and girls leadership. It is amazing what simple things people do in other countries that, can change the entire world.  A 16 year old girl, from Ecuador, shared about her cooking class for both boys and girls high school. While boys learn to cook and clean, the girls being supportive cook and clean with them. So easy and simple. Also, breakthrough to end early girl’s marriage in India, an approach started in India to end early marriage. It is not the same context in Madagascar, my country, but I do believe that we can take something to learn from the approach, especially to sensitively navigate in the culture.

Explain the Commission for Status of Women and share stories

Explain the Commission for Status of Women and share stories

After two weeks of experiencing the CSW 59, I felt like sponges soaked in the water, I have gathered a lot of information.  For a month, I have wondered how to share this information with other. Finally, the women group leader from a church in Mahamanina Lutheran Church Congregation in Fianarantsoa, Madagascar heard about my experience and wanted to hear more about status of women. Women’s department from Mahamanina Lutheran Church Congregation, Fianarantsoa, Madagascar met and requested talk about gender based violence and how other countries deal with those issues and what the CSW’s?    On a cloudy day, Mai 16th, 2015, eighty five (85) Malagasy Men, women and youth  were gathered in Sahambavy, Fianarantsoa, Madagascar  It was little challenging to talk about sexual violence at church because in Malagasy culture, sex and domestic violence discussions are considered only for private life, the people who attended are from a traditional and church context.

Christina (Right) and Sthela ( Left) Sahambavy, Fianarantsoa, Madagascar

Christina (Right) and Sthela ( Left) Sahambavy, Fianarantsoa, Madagascar

I had the great pleasure to invite a guest during this information work. Miss Christina Espegren, a Young Adult in Global Mission, studied about Women and Gender at California Lutheran University and serving for a year in Madagascar. She explained what Gender based violence and talked about gender equality was such great opportunity. I explained what we should do if violence happens, how we can, as a church, be a safe space for women  and Girls, to talk about and fight against a violence that happens in our community. And, starting as simple an action as we can, let’s say, the cooking class, just to teach the children at home or school to know that house

cleaning is for both boys and girls, not just girls. Finally, shared the stories from other women all over the world. People were really interested in the gender based violence and wanted to know how to start a safe space for women in church to talk about the violence that happens in their life.

Now, I have three more presentations to do, for youth, family and my local congregation.