On September 14, 2018, the International School Network visited the Embassy of Madagascar to interview the Ambassador, Her Excellency Ms. Mireille Rakotomalala.
H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala explained that relations between Madagascar and Japan have further increased, especially through recent high level visits. Furthermore, H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala expressed her hopes for JICA, that has been working on areas such as agriculture, health and economy in Madagascar, as well as TICAD for next year.
H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala introduced various similar values that Malagasy people share with the Japanese. She noted that both peoples have the love for rice as a staple food. Also, as the two nations are both island countries, H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala noted that many of the traditions and lifestyles are similar, including the formation of unique traditions, and living in harmony with the society and environment. Finally, H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala commented that both Malagasy and Japanese people value respect, especially for elders, ancestors, and the community. H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala stated that Malagasy and Japanese people live both harmonious and polite lives by nature.
H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala explained that millions of years ago, Madagascar was connected to the Asian continent, where it formed a language similar to Indonesian. Madagascar has kept its language as a mix of old Indonesian, Indian, Bantu, and Swahili. As an island country, Madagascar experienced few outside influences on its traditions, and so the sacred languages and diversity of Madagascar has been a very fascinating part of its history. H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala mentioned that because of such unique history, Madagascar has been an attractive research area for researchers and anthropologists.
H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala has noted that Madagascar has been able to maintain their traditions, yet the influences of technology has been making this more and more difficult. H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala noted that it is important that people maintain a balance between traditions and technology. She expressed that this complicated balance of tradition and development can be seen in Japan, and hopes that Madagascar can find it as well.
Madagascar has traditionally had a matriarchal society; with the mother as the “pillar of the house”. H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala noted, however, that the equality for women’s roles in society still has areas for improvement. Now, the government of Madagascar is working on giving more political and economic rights to women, and there has been an increase in the number of women in enterprises with more support systems in place for women. Like many Japanese households, women in Madagascar tend to stay home to care for and educate their children. H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala noted that there must be a change in the mindset for men, and this can be done through education. She hopes that men and women can reach a solidarity, especially in the complicated field of politics.
The Ambassador herself had always been a working woman- she has worked professionally in music, teaching at universities, and politics. She explained her passion for creating ideas.
H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala has a passion for learning Japanese to gain a stronger understanding and relationship with Japanese people, especially as the Ambassador to Japan. She explained that despite her busy schedule, she aspires to work hard to achieve her goal. Additionally, as a professional pianist as well, H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala mentioned her desire for holding music concerts in Japan.
Since a young age, H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala has been playing on the piano as her favorite past time. She continued playing the piano when she went to France, and became a professional at a music school. It was after this when she started working in diplomacy, as she grew interested in knowing other countries. After that, she has lived in the US, Japan, and Madagascar. It is now H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala’s fourth time in Japan.
H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala stated that there are too many people in the world who are money-driven. She noted that greed- the conflict for profits, resources, and territory- is a main cause of war, alongside the problem of differences and domination. She hopes that more people can see that the world is magnificent, and that everything should be valued.
H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala noted that in Madagascar, people have a very peaceful mindset. However, Madagascar’s blessing of diversity and resources has caused colonization and the corruption of the nation’s riches. H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala explained that corruption causes various difficulties. Now, the newer generations are working towards good governance for development, especially on nature.
H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala noted that education is an important factor that makes the base of development, as has been the case for Japan. Moreover, H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala explained that it is important to have both academic and humanitarian classes. She stated that “education makes the base of the people”, so it is important that countries focus on maintaining the standards of education.
Message for Japan
H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala expressed that she has always been interested in Japan, and that many young Malagasy people today are becoming more and more interested in Japan. In fact, she noticed that many university students in Madagascar are learning and able to speak Japanese. H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala explained that through cultural exchanges in school, Malagasy people from a young age have been exposed to Japanese culture such as origami, ikebana, and igo.
H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala also commented that she is always impressed by the Japanese, such as after natural disasters. H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala stated that Japan is a strong country to be able to stand up again quickly after any disaster.
As a message towards Japanese students, H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala would like for people to respect the Japanese educational system. She also expressed her hopes for more Japanese students to exchange with foreign students, and encouragement for them to learn about different cultures and languages for the enrichment of human connection. She also emphasized that prejudices should not be listened to, especially in the context of Africa. H.E. Ms. Rakotomalala would like more Japanese people to learn about the positive parts of Africa, especially as Japan is opening up to the world through the 2020 Olympics.