Last month we celebrated 58 years of Independence for Madagascar, a monumental day in the history of the country and its people.
Madagascar’s history takes twists and turns, a nation that was continually and reluctantly ruled by outside nations willing to fight for it. Over the past two thousand years the island has received waves of settlers of diverse origins including Austronesian, Bantu, Arab, South Asian, Chinese and European populations with various leaders staking claim to power over the island. However, in the 1880s a political wrangling between Britain and France led to Britain accepting France’s authority over Madagascar. Madagascar refused to acknowledge this and thus the French declared the Franco-Hova war in which they invaded Madagascar and eventually captured the capital, Antananarivo, in 1895.
In French Madagascar, Malagasy people were forced to undertake corvée labour (unpaid and un-contracted temporary work) on French-run plantations, which were highly profitable for the colonial administration. Access to education or skilled positions within the colonial structure were limited and many basic rights were denied; although some basic services like schools and clinics were extended to coastal areas for the first time.
Finally, after months of debate, on 26 March 1960 France agreed to Madagascar becoming fully independent and on June 26th the same year, Madagascar officially became an independent country with Philibert Tsiranana becoming the first president. Following the decolonisation and declaration of Independence for Madagascar in 1960, the country now celebrates the holiday every year with festivals, parties, community gatherings involving food, drinks, dancing and parades.
On a local level, independence for the Malagasy people is something SEED Madagascar places a huge emphasis on. With the goal of true sustainability behind all of our projects, independence is key. At the Stitch Sainte Luce studio the embroiderers create their own independence with each handmade piece they make, the income from which contributes directly to their financial security and in turn gives them access to healthcare and education for their families. Due to their domestic duties and the minimal income from reed weaving and mangrove fishing, women often rely on their husbands’ or fathers’ incomes to support themselves and their children – a self-perpetuating cycle of dependency.
Alongside the embroidery training, SEED provides women with business and communication skills which will enable the women to run the cooperative completely independently in future. Women taking on roles beyond housework in the communities continually promotes gender equality and creates a more promising future for the Malagasy.