Mia, 22, changed the law in Madagascar to allow under 18s access to contraception. Gemma Munday, stories lead at Restless Development, worked with Mia to film her story using mobile phones. Gemma interviewed Mia about her activism.
When did you realise access to contraception was a problem for young people?
During my Masters I decided to do some research on early pregnancies and unwanted pregnancies. I realised that a lot of young women didn’t want to get pregnant. The problem was that they didn’t have information about how to have safe sex and no way of getting hold of contraception.
What did you decide to do about it?
At first I started volunteering in Antananarivo, which is the capital city where I live in Madagascar. I would visit people in their homes and raise awareness of safe sex and family planning. Young women here are facing issues like early pregnancies, child marriages and sometimes they are exposed to HIV and violence. At this time, young people didn’t have the right to use contraception until the age of 18.
That’s when I decided to do something. In 2016, I led network of young people on a 6 month campaign in partnership with UNFPA (United Nations Family Planning Association).
“The aim was to remove this law to allow under 18s to access contraception. We won our campaign!”
Tell us how you grew your campaign from a vision to a movement?
You have to be organised. Show influential people and organisations statistics and stories so they understand the issue and how it can be resolved.
“Once we gained their trust, we had meetings every month to discuss, to debate, how are we going to run our campaign.”
We gained support from the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Youth and Sports. Then we created a strategy on how to influence the national assembly (who vote in laws).
We organised a round table workshop where, as young people, we expressed our voice in order to make Members of Parliament aware of the importance of this law. Finally we wrote a letter addressed to the Head of the National Assembly expressing how important the law change was for our human rights.
What is your message for other young people who want to make a difference?
You should not do it alone because it will take a long time. If you have the same goal you should all work together, you will have greater impact.
What is your role as a Restless Development #YouthPower leader?
As a Youth Power leader with Restless Development, I am part of a global network of young activists. I have been trained by Restless Development in campaigning skills so I can improve my work, and even attended a global health conference in Rwanda as a youth delegate.
As a Youth Power leader I push other young people to be self driven and not wait to solve our problems. All young people should have the same opportunities, but solving these issues can be really challenging.
“I want an Africa where young people become leaders in development. We are the key to the development of Africa.”
What do you do now?
I was recently elected as Councillor in my area. I also lead a network on 30 young people, aged 16 – 24, who work on sexual rights issues across the country. This year, I plan to grow the network and create a report on the impact of our work. There are many other issues we want to work on, such as gender based violence which is severely under-reported in Madagascar. There are no nation wide reports on the issue.
What’s the one thing you want people to know about Madagascar?
When people think of Madagascar they often think of the cartoon we all love. But it is not a developed country, people don’t know much about it.
“It is a big country and a beautiful island, even though we are poor. I love my country. Maybe one day people can visit my island and meet me as well!”
What was it like making the film with Restless Development? What was your favourite part?
Making the film with Restless Development was such an exciting moment. It was a lot of work because we had to retake shots, talk louder and so on. However, making a film [with Gemma] was comfortable, Restless Development did not come and impose their ideas but instead ask how will I want to conduct the film. At each shot, I was taught what to do and why is it important to do so.
“My favorite part was getting tips on how to film using Mobile Journalism (MOJO) and conduct interviews.”
What do you hope the impact of this film will be?
I hope this film will inspire other young people who would like to campaign on issues that affect them. Plus, I want to use this film as an advocacy tool to hold decision makers accountable and make them realize that young people have the power to lead.
What is your message for International Women’s day?
Women should have the right to our bodies. It’s our choice. We have the right to have the power because we are all equal with men. I want to continue to fight for gender equality and become a Minister to prove that women can lead.