Chantal Raharimalala is from Madagascar. Since July 2012, she has been working in Toulepleu, not far from the border between Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia. It's her fourth posting as a UN Volunteer in Côte d'Ivoire, where she has been serving since 2007. Her career, which has evolved in parallel to the country's political situation, is a perfect example of the multiple facets and responsibilities of UN Volunteers who work for peacebuilding and democracy.
Between 2007 and 2012, Chantal worked as a UNV Electoral Advisor in Korhogo. Her main objective was to support 13 local commissions for the successful running of the presidential and legislative elections in Côte d'Ivoire. Chantal also contributed to awareness-raising activities amongst the population on electoral matters in order to foster a culture of democracy. "I remember in particular the night that followed the first round of the presidential elections. I supervised over fifty people, which is not so easy when you are a woman. I drove hundreds of kilometers in one day, and did not sleep for three nights, until all results made their way to the central electoral commission for my area."
"Following the post-electoral crisis in December 2010, we were evacuated to the Gambia", remembers Chantal. Back in Côte d'Ivoire in 2011, she served at the call centre of the Human Rights Division, where she answered calls and registered complaints about human rights abuses and violations. In emergency cases, she informed United Nations entities and, if needed, other humanitarian stakeholders in order to organize an appropriate and immediate response.
Since July 2012, Chantal has been serving as UNV Civil Affairs Officer with the Civil Affairs Office in Toulepleu. She supports local state representatives, tax, customs and local government administrations as they redeploy throughout the country.
In Chantal's view, her hard work is paying off: "I see trust growing again within local communities after UNOCI's visits; I see recovered peace reflected in people's eyes and faces. I can see that life has resumed in Toulepleu, especially compared to what the situation was when I arrived. People return to their daily activities, and the security situation is becoming normal again. Some people are still dubious about the peace process, but most of the population is confident. It is really heart-warming."
For Chantal, the hardest moments - those immediately following the post-electoral crisis - were also those when solidarity was at its strongest. "During the crisis, there was a family spirit which really helped us through difficult moments, fear and stress. Working with colleagues from different cultural backgrounds is not always easy, but I have learnt a lot from them. One never stops discovering and learning through their lives."