Nofy Nandrianina Noelisoa Rajernerson/CARE Madagascar

Picturing Hope: Helping girls in Madagascar see life through a different lens

Glimpses of life in Madagascar life through the eyes of young women

In Madagascar, CARE worked with Nofy Nandrianina Noelisoa Rajernerson, a professional photographer who teaches at Akany Avoko Faravohitra, a residential rehabilitation center that provides young girls with second chances, life skills, a safe space, and support to deal with past traumas.

Like many other low-income countries, the effects of both crises and systemic injustices in Madagascar fall disproportionately upon girls and young women. Malagasy girls suffer fewer educational opportunities, gender-based violence, forced marriage, and hunger.

The world’s second-largest island nation, just off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, Madagascar is uniquely exposed to the effects of climate change. The country experiences repeated long-lasting droughts, and an average of 1.5 cyclones per year – the highest rate in Africa. An estimated 20 per cent of Malagasy people—around five million—are directly affected by many natural disasters, including cyclones, floods, and droughts.

In the country’s social welfare system, there is no distinction between juvenile justice and child welfare – all are processed through the same courts and judges. Some of the girls who pass through the system end up at Avoko Center in Antananarivo, the capital city.

Ivelohanta Razafindrasoa, the center’s director, is known universally to the girls as “Aunty Hanta.” A former resident herself, she was orphaned at age seven and separated from her siblings. Thanks to the center she was able to study, gain qualifications, and go on to inspire future generations of girls.

Portrait of a woman wearing a sleevless white dress with pink trees and houses on it. She is sitting facing the camera.
Ivelohanta Razafindrasoa, or “Aunty Hanta." Mim'SARY
Portrait of a woman wearing a white sleeveless top and a red skirt. She is sitting with her body turned to the left and head facing the camera.
Nofy Nandrianina Noelisoa Rajernerson. Mim'SARY

Meet the photographer: Nofy Nandrianina Noelisoa Rajernerson

“I have been working as a professional photographer since 2017. I am a sociologist by training and I am interested in all human and social areas. I have a passion for music and dance, but also training others in photography, culture, and the arts.

As a self-taught photographer, I have perfected my skills in the world of photography through training, learning from and sharing experiences with other photographers, so I was happy to also share my knowledge and experience with these young girls. I am the co-founder (alongside my husband) of Mim’SARY photo agency in Antananarivo.

I have been lucky enough to meet some special people during my career, but the CARE-sponsored women photography project has especially touched my heart and soul. The welcome from the director and the girls of Akany Avoko Faravohitra Center was so warm, from the beginning to the end of the project. Even now, I know that we will keep a strong relationship going into the future."

Little girl looks at the camera with a partial smile on her face.
Nofy Nandrianina Noelisoa Rajernerson/CARE Madagascar

"I had often asked myself why we don’t have an initiative like this for our young people in Madagascar, and I am so happy now to be part of this project, which will allow these young people to express themselves and to tell their experiences through photography. The project has been rich in emotion and experience.

Unacceptable social situations and delicate cases affect the majority of Malagasy families, and young girls are often the victims. The girls I trained are a source of pride for me in that they are now so motivated to tell their stories through photographs; they were involved and ready to pass on the message so that all the bad things they have experienced would not happen again to others. It’s just emotional and breathtaking.  They are the keys to making their situations and those of others better.”

a dorm room with bunkbeds.
The Avoko Centre. Nofy Nandrianina Noelisoa Rajernerson/CARE Madagascar
Landscape shot of a farmer's field.
Nofy Nandrianina Noelisoa Rajernerson/CARE Madagascar

"During the training, I was moved by the testimonies of these three girls. And even more so, the strong female leadership of the director, Aunty Hanta. Her background and her attention to the girls is a concrete and inspirational example of the strength of women. I am convinced that women can go beyond what they think, and that despite the society they live in, they have the perseverance to follow their dreams.

Despite the reality in Madagascar, I am optimistic. Through my images I aim to tell stories that carry positive messages. The training of the young girls of the center and other female beneficiaries has given me the opportunity to transmit this vision."

Nofy asked three of her students to document life in the Center while telling their own stories. Stay tuned for these upcoming pieces.

Help support incredible women like Aunty Hanta and Nofy who are leading change in their communities.