Vonifanja, “Fanja,” Rakotondrahiratra is a 39 year old woman from Madagascar. She has always loved learning and happily walked the 15 km. round-trip required for her to attend school. As a young woman, she sold small fritters and ice cream after school and on weekends to pay for her educational expenses and allow her to complete high school.
Fanja married at 21 primarily because her parents weren’t able support her, much less the university studies she wanted to pursue. She’d fallen in love and quickly married, believing her husband was the man of her dreams and someone who would also support her dreams. Unfortunately, she was wrong. Her husband soon revealed himself to be violent, a drunkard, and a thief who often took and wasted her entire salary. His abusive behavior and reputation caused Fanja to lose good jobs and be unemployable in her community. She felt trapped in a disastrous marriage with no options for escape since she was then also the mother of two daughters.
When Fanja’s husband died after 12 years of marriage, she was determined to take control of her life and provide a better future for herself and her daughters. She found a stable job as a cashier and returned to university while working and raising her children.
Today Fanja is proficient in Global Logistics, Finance, and Accounting and is the logistics coordinator for an international of Mining Company in her country. She and her family are happy and healthy, and she is proud to now also contribute to the welfare of her community and country. Fanja is the founder of the Association of Young Malagasy (TANORA TIA FANDROSOANA) which teaches students about the importance of sanitation and is working to implement a recycling program and teaching on health and safety, anti-corruption management in Madagascar.
The message Fanja wishes to share with the less fortunate women of Africa is that they are strong, intelligent, and capable of changing the direction of their lives. Yes, they may make mistakes along the way, and life can be very unfair, but if they have the courage to believe in themselves, they too can pick themselves up and start moving toward their dreams to eventually enjoy a productive and satisfying life.