Since 2009, when current President Andry Rajoelina ousted then-president Marc Ravalomanana with the army's support, Madagascar has faced serious economic and social instability. Against the backdrop of a poverty index of 76,5% where the majority of the Malagasy population lives below the poverty line, people have also endured poor governance, insecurity and violence.
In particular, women in Madagascar living under these conditions have had to pay a high price since such political and economic crises often exacerbate existing discrimination, subordination and violence against women. Hence, in addition to attempts at redressing marginalisation, reconciliation remains key in resolving the political and social hurdles.
The situation of the Malagasy women has a historical dimension as well, which can help to explain the various changes in the status of the Malagasy woman in the pre-colonial era up to independence and beyond.
With various stakeholders having signed the Roadmap proposed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which should lead to new elections next year, there is hope that the transition will be fair and inclusive in a spirit of tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation; values that can be translated into action. An effective national reconciliation, free and credible elections, the return to constitutionality, better management of diversity, and a building of the capacity of Malagasy women to improve public life through a serious commitment to the respect for human rights and the principles of 'Fihavanana', are all essential to lasting peace in Madagascar.
But can one speak of a 'consensual, inclusive and participatory process' if the female half of the population are underrepresented at the top of political parties and groups, and are not integrated in the transition and reconciliation process? Madagascar has signed the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, of which Article 28 promotes the participation of women in conflict resolution and peacekeeping. The Alliance for the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, a regional network of national and regional NGOs, has been created to contribute to its implementation.
Madagascar, through the Federation Pour la Promotion Feminine et Enfantine (FPFE-GEMSA), is an integral part of this Alliance.
While the September 2011 roadmap has resulted in substantial progress towards resolving the political stalemate, there are still various hurdles that need to be dealt with. Reconciliation is one such hurdle that should be implemented to make amends among the Malagasy population in order to regain trust in the ethnically divided country. Dealing meaningfully with reconciliation requires that it be community-focussed and community-driven so that the political process fully realises its objectives of consolidating state-centric mediation processes. Today, Malagasy women play an important role in reconciliation at district, provincial and national level. At community level, various women movements go beyond different political affiliations to deliberate on new priorities for women's rights during and after the transition process. These movements include Vondrona MiraLenta ho an'ny Fampandrosoana (Platform for Gender Equality and Development, VMLF) and AINGA 30-50 (which aims at 30% representation of women in decision-making positions by 2012 and 50% by 2015), which have been promoting the issue of gender representation since 2007.
With the launch of the National Reconciliation Commission on 4 September 2012, the role of women as peacebuilders and mediators at community level will need to be consolidated, as very few women have been appointed at national level in state-centric processes. This is in spite of the number of women involved in community-level peacebuilding and reconciliation.
Significantly, the Roadmap cannot be implemented without reconciliation and amnesty. The commission will consist of 24 members and will include two representatives from each region. Submissions are open to all Malagasy who are 40 years old or older, of high integrity and known in the community. The application and submission process has not been promoted well and as a result many applications have been sent to the national office of the National Reconciliation Commission, instead of being sent to the regional government officials. As of this week, there are no female candidates. It is therefore critical that the women movements field candidates who can be selected to sit on the National Reconciliation Commission. It is only then that one can expect a consensual, inclusive and participatory process where women will be represented at the top of the political parties and groups, and in the transition and reconciliation process.