Chad has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1995, more popularly known as the Women’s Convention is the international women’s rights treaty that spells out women’s rights and obliges governments to ensure respect for these rights. However, it’s still not sure whether there are some Chadian women know that if Chad ratified the optional protocol to CEDAW or the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, better known as the Maputo Protocol.
The changing landscapes of women’s rights in Chad still very critical, major problems have hindered the development of women. In 2012, the World Economic Forum ranked the country among the worst regions in their Global Gender Gap Report. Despite the Chadian government’s efforts, overall development levels remained low; Chadian president Idriss Déby has recently instituted a law adopted this year, which is for a mandatory quota of 30% for women in all nominative and elective functions, with the ultimate objective of gradually achieving parity. This quota is already effective in its application, however, winning rights for Chadian women is about more than giving opportunities to any individual woman or girl; it is also about changing how the country and communities work. Indeed; it involves changing laws and policies, winning hearts, minds, and investing in strong women’s organizations and movements.
Being a woman in Chad
If it is true that globalization globalizes problems of humanity, on the other hand, it makes it possible to better understand them while comparing them, by identifying the peculiarities and specificities of each region of the globe. Today we are witnessing unusual struggle of women in Chad for more rights and equality – although I am aware that it is critical for the next decade for the engagement of women in Chad and gender equality to be integrated into all aspects of development; peacekeeping, diplomacy, and protection throughout local and national systems.
Simply, because all studies conducted on Chad show a country in which women are mostly illiterate, have the least health coverage, most of them are at risk of early marriage, some are still exposed to excision, women are more confronted with all forms of discrimination, beatings, torture, and rape were committed sometimes by terrorists or security forces and other abuses with “almost total” impunity.
Reports on human rights practices say that Sudanese and internally displaced women refugees in eastern Chad are often targets of sexual violence. For example, a survey conducted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in 2009 revealed a prevalence of sexual violence in the order of 15 to 20 per cent in camps mainly committed by the Chadian army – in short, our sisters, wives and mothers are still lagging behind in access to the most basic rights, compared to men – in such conditions, how can women contribute to the development of the country when we know that they represent more than half of the population?
Indeed, the current situation of the Chadian women is disastrous, illiterate, subjected to forced and early marriages, their life is for the most part a life of suffering and discrimination, their well being is mortgaged by the weight of poverty, socio-cultural barriers, and HIV infection with a high prevalence rate in the country. Moreover, psychologically and systematically abused and victims of all kinds of violence, they are more and more victims of rape – women are regarded as less intelligent, weak, stupid or inferior sex to man in the Chadian society, woman; according to African and Chadian conception more precisely is the one who takes care of cooking, clean the house, the one who takes care of the home, and gives birth. This is certainly true, but today women in Chad are trying to go beyond this primary role and aspire to inspire more, they have realized that development will not happen without them.
Fortunately today, Chadians in general, and women in particular, are trying to thinking, sharing, consulting, sensitizing and learning about the ambitions they want for their country and the role they want to play. Chadian woman represents about 53% of the Chadian society – despite this weight; her voice cannot weigh heavy against her father, her brother, her husband and her sons who rely on two considerations inherited from the ancestral traditions which grant advantages and privileges to men. The latter does not intend to show any willingness to free her voice and finally treat her with more respect and consideration, all they do is considering her “MARA SAKIT” – meaning that she is just a woman!
It stands to reason that the basic unit of a society is the family. Hence, if the basic unit is well organized; an efficient education is provided to the children as well as a health protection; such society will have made halfway the way in its march towards its blossoming. Consequently, I am confident that Chadian women are doing their best to freeing themselves today, rearranging their prejudices and becoming reliable partners, and Chad will eventually print a normal pace of change on its march towards harmonious development with the unreserved participation of women in all struggles; whether in economic or social development.
Such socio-economic development implies involvement of the entire social stratum of the Chadian population. This means that men and women should both be involved in decisions that affect them. In today’s Chad, we cannot ignore the role played by women in maintaining the family structure and political environment. However, for the Chadian woman, to fully assume her role in this society; she will need the necessary education, because education is a key factor for women empowerment prosperity, development and welfare.
Recently, efforts have been made to enroll girls at the primary and secondary levels, but the level of schooling is falling at tertiary levels for a number of reasons: Teenage pregnancy, early marriage, HIV infections and domestic violence. But the Chadian parliament has adopted a reform of its penal code which raises the legal marriage age from 16 to 18. Meanwhile, Chadian President Idriss Déby promulgated a law in 2015, that punishes any person party to the marriage of a minor by 5 to 10 years prison sentence and a fine of 500,000 to 5 million FCFA (750 to 7,500 Euros). Despite this decree, its application and effective implementation remains timid, girls are still being forced to get
married under 18 – approximately, more than 50 % of married girls in Chad are married before the age of 18, according to some analysts.
I have no idea where such disgusting practice dates back to, perhaps to pre-colonial times, however, the majority of African regimes do not seem serious to prevent child marriage. Not only, but many African societies stand in the way of expressing criticism, objection and rejection of the education and practice of women to work that is exclusively exclusive to men, which leads to maltreatment and lack of understanding of the status of women and inability to help them and failed to secure a decent life especially in cases of war, And in the weak economies of these poor countries – this, in turn, results in confused policies that lack the in-depth strategies to promote them and guarantee their right to a decent life.
Are women today given enough freedom?
Perhaps talking about Chadian woman freedom is the most difficult and complicated bit in this article; as long as freedom itself has a different meaning to each individual. For many Chadian women – freedom is the state of a person or a people who does not suffer from constraints, or restrictions by another person, by a tyrannical power or by a foreign power. It is also the state of a person who is neither imprisoned nor dependent on anyone.
Actually, it is a term that has multiple meanings and confusion for many Chadian women- when I asked them “What does freedom mean to you?” most of them answered, “freedom means being free to go to school or work – it means I do not have an obligation that would prevent me; when an enlarged prisoner exclaims: “I am finally free” means that they no longer physically constrained.
The real question is not just the definition and proof of freedom or justifying the “sharp and internal feeling” – however, and at the higher level, freedom is also identified with the spontaneity of tendencies. Hence, and in order to be able to look at the bigger picture; I think it was wise and fair to ask Chadian men what freedom means to them? – For most of them, they feel free when they can fulfill their desires. But some of these men seem to believe that some trends are harmful and men must naturally fight against them. Spontaneity cannot be reduced to obeying one’s passions or impulses.
On the other hand, many Chadian women seem to believe that freedom is not really in what they do, but in the way they do things. For them – freedom is an attitude, that of the man who recognizes himself in his life. This is why freedom often consists in “changing one’s desires rather than the order of the world”.
Meanwhile, a few numbers of Chadian men seem to believe that absolute freedom is dangerous for women; it makes them lose their footing and makes them crazy. For some, perhaps freedom of women may mean to them losing their masculinity and becoming supplicating to women. This is why we must be more reasonable, and see freedom as free will, which is good enough given the number of people who are deprived of it.
Personally, even though I think that freedom is a very difficult word to define, but I find the notion of freedom is relatively relative and depends on each and every situation – just imagine living alone in the middle of a jungle, yes, we would certainly be free from the rules of a society but certainly not free from the vagaries of nature with which it would be necessary to compose, but human being has opted for a life in a group and because of the rules which govern a good balance of a society, some could be there free in total osmosis with these rules while others would find their freedom restricted. Hence, we can be free in our thought, our feelings, and our desires and in our choices without losing our masculinity or dignity.
Personal fulfillment or happiness
Let’s not let data deny the obvious, the male perspective of happiness is not the same as a female’s and vice versa – and that’s fine. Perhaps we each need to define what our personal happiness really looks like and not depend on what others tell us it should be. And it’s no wonder that there’s a positive angle in seeing things subjectively in the world of women. For many Chadian women – happiness is a durable state of personal fulfillment and satisfaction. It is a pleasant and balanced state of mind and body, hence suffering, stress, worry and trouble are absent. It is the amount of pleasures, joys, emotions and pleasant feelings as well as the little daily pleasures that they live and emphasize internally that fills the reservoir of their deepest desires.
It’s hard to take a snapshot of female happiness in the Chadian society, as many external factors have an impact on their happiness, but despite their real impact, it is not the external factors that favor or hinder happiness the most – it is their ability to emphasize what is right, to taste it fully and also the ability to negotiate with the suffering induced by external factors, without running away, deny, trivialize, exaggerate, dramatize, leaving room for emotions suffering they are causing them – it’s all about self-awareness, balance, honesty, dignity and humility.
I have recently conducted interviews with tens of Chadian ladies in N’Djamena, for many of those women – happiness is a state of complete satisfaction characterized by its stability and durability. Most of them believe that it is not enough to feel a little contentment to be happy. An intense joy is not happiness, either an ephemeral pleasure. – For them, happiness is a global state, it presents a balance and only an external element could modify it.
It is very important to recognize that women in Chad seem to be unhappy citizens with full voting rights, because most of them remain unaware of their right to protection from gender-based violence, many are unaware that rape is a crime and see it as just an act of indecency. As I said earlier; most acts of rapes and gender-based violence are committed by security officers against women. Consequently, sexual assault survivors never report for many reasons. And it is almost impossible for anyone to believe them in the society when they report; perhaps even their family and parents won’t believe such reports.
Meanwhile, Underage Chadian girls travel to the capital city in search of work or education, where some are subsequently subjected to prostitution. Some girls are compelled to marry against their will, only to be forced by their husbands into involuntary domestic servitude or agricultural labor.
Based on own observation, it’s possible to point out that women in Chad still have a much harder time than men fitting work and family together without saying that they are “secretly miserable” or that they shouldn’t value career and financial independence. But how are you supposed to have the energy to be happier if you’re exhausted, not free and miserable from work and education?
In the absence of specific family legislation, women are excluded from legal protection. Even thought the government announced the intention to promote early adoption of a Gender Equality Family Code, the persistence of discriminatory legislation; discrimination in the field of family; domestic violence against women and harmful traditional practices; violations of women’s inheritance rights; women’s limited access to education, the labor market, decision-making positions, health and justice. However, all these texts are still in draft form only, simply; because the government doesn’t seem to take the texts seriously from the begging. Therefore, it is obvious that gains in women’s rights haven’t made Chadian women happier.
As a neutral observer, I am just trying to examine a situation from a detached space of not being invested emotionally in the outcome. It seems to be obvious to me that Chadian women face immense difficulties in accessing justice and asserting their rights. On the one hand, the costs of proceedings are particularly high; on the other hand, Chadian women are not aware of their rights and the laws that protect them. In addition, the lack of professional training of police and judicial personnel, as well as their lack of knowledge of applicable rules to protect women’s rights, hinder the outcome of complaints and deter victims from seeking justice. Not only, but, traditional and religious leaders have significant authority interpret the law to harm and damage Chadian women. Hence, girl’s education is the best way to eliminate such discriminatory cultural practices and stereotypes that negatively impact women’s rights in Chad.