President's Corner

Zonta International is changing the lives of women and girls in Madagascar

19 May 2017

Zonta International is changing the lives of women and girls in Madagascar

Imagine living in a house without water and electricity. To read your homework your only alternative is an oil lamp. Imagine walking home from school in complete darkness, sometimes as far as 5 kilometers. If the rain falls there is a risk of roads and bridges being destroyed. This is the daily life for many girls in Madagascar.



I recently had the opportunity to visit our Let Us Learn project in Madagascar with Foundation Development Committee Chairman Sally Bean. What I saw in Madagascar really showed the need for giving girls the possibility for an education in a safe environment. All girls should have this chance for a better life. Every year a girl attends school will increase her possibility for an income and self sustainability. An educated girl also will send her future children to school.


Our project in Madagascar, in partnership with UNICEF USA, is an integrated project where all the different parts together help to keep girls in school. I saw in Madagascar that this approach works.


We saw newly built cyclone safe classrooms and separate latrines for girls and boys being built. When this is ready it will also include washing possibilities. We saw the very controlled payment process of cash transfers to the mothers in the families to support them to send their girls to school, pay the school fees, and buy uniforms and paper and pens. Mothers are also regularly trained in civil rights and other life skills.



More than 1000 teachers will receive pedagogical training through our project. Often this is the first time they will have this experience, and the teachers we met were extremely grateful for this chance to improve their teaching skills and also to receive a suggested curriculum and training material. There exist hardly any books in the village schools. Everything is written on the black board and the children copy the text.



Girls we met had dreams for their future – they wanted (and many already had) a longer education than their parents. They wanted to be policemen, doctors and midwives. We saw girls really running to get to school (and they were not late).



Violence is a big part of the girls’ lives after they reach the ages of 12-13. We met social workers that work together with other authorities like the police to prevent this abuse. In the schools, student clubs are created to spread the message that this is not OK. The girls are also trained in their human rights. However, much work still needs to be done to change attitudes and old customs.



We are part of changing the lives of women and girls in Madagascar – we cannot change it for everyone, but we can change it for some and that is a start. We are helping girls to fulfill their dreams. More information about the project will follow in a video later this year.


Thank you all for supporting this project. You are truly making a difference for women and girls in Madagascar.




Susanne von Bassewitz is the 2018-2020 President of Zonta International and the Zonta International Foundation.

»Read her biography.