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Celebrating International Human Rights Day: How Agua de Coco is protecting women and children rights in Madagascar

International Human Rights Day - How Agua de Coco is protecting women and children rights in Madagascar

Madagascar has a high number of cases of violence against women and children and forced child labour. Although women in the country are given the same legal status as men, they face discrimination on various fronts- inheritance, employment and in their day-to-day lives. The rights of the children are also threatened due to the situation of political unrest and climate change. Child exploitation, child violence and child labour are prevalent in large parts of the country.

We spoke to Sandra Fernandez Cesar, Manager, Agua de Coco to learn how the nonprofit is helping women and children in Madagascar by providing them basic education, food and protection from human rights abuse.

Why is it important to talk about human rights in the 21st century?

Sandra – It’s important to talk about human rights in the 21st century because even though the Universal Declaration proclaims rights to quality living to all human beings, the number of people who live in dire conditions is increasing, especially in developing and underdeveloped countries.

We are focused on protecting the fundamental rights of children and women since they are the most vulnerable groups. We work in Madagascar, the country is placed at 182 out of 189 countries in the human development index. According to the UN 2019 report, it is also the country with the fourth-highest incidence of chronic malnutrition in children. 70% of the population lives below the poverty line. 47% of children suffer from labour exploitation in the mining and agricultural sectors. There is still a long way to go before we can fully realise the vision of the Universal Declaration of the world in which all people are free and equal.

What were the major challenges that your nonprofit faced due to the pandemic and how did you overcome those challenges?

Sandra – In Madagascar, a large section of the population lost their daily incomes because of a complete halt on tourism. The closing of international and national frontiers and lockdown hit the economy and the households. Children stopped going to school and started working, becoming more prone to exploitation- sexual and otherwise. According to a study done in Madagascar by the UN, it was found that 89% of young people have been a victim of corporal punishment. This data is extremely shocking. Therefore, we created a platform with the help of another NGO through which we spread awareness among children, women and families about their rights. They can reach out to us in case they want to report any kind of violence- sexual, emotional or physical and we provide them with medical care and protection.

Do you think that developed nations are different from developing nations when it comes to human rights?

Sandra – Even though violence is a global problem, there is a stark difference when you compare different countries. For example- According to UNICEF, in Madagascar, 10,800 children work in the mining of Mica and this figure is just a part of the total number of girls and boys working in the country. But in the Northern countries, children there have better access to quality education.

Agua de Coco runs schools where public education facilities cannot reach, giving more than 600 students access to a quality meal with dietary supplements every day. Besides this, we give them a bottle of one litre of water to bring to their house to support their families. We also have a student residence for girls at risk of social exclusion which gives them the opportunity to study and get a better life. We are working towards building a world that is equal for everyone.

How can people across the world support your cause?

Sandra – Spreading the right information is extremely important. Telling people, especially children in the developed countries about the condition of children in the Southern countries is necessary since these children are the future of the world. It is not necessary to be in Madagascar to help. There are ways to volunteer through international development cooperation. We also need economic support to eradicate human rights violations to achieve sustainable development goals and a fairer world.

Is there something you would like to share with the readers?

Sandra – There is a lot of work that needs to be done to eradicate inequalities. As NGOs, we are doing our share but we also need support from the masses. We need volunteers, economic collaborations- all of these are extremely important for us. When we work collectively, these goals become easier to achieve and we can change a lot of lives for the better. So, I would like to thank the ones who are already supporting our cause and request more people to extend a helping hand. Together, we can do it.

Celebrate Children’s Day with Goodera

Goodera empowers nonprofits such as Agua de Coco through brand advocacy, fundraising and long term volunteers.

We hope that this interview helped you to really understand how Agua De Coco is on a mission to assist those affected by natural disasters or armed conflicts, both local and abroad.

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