Centenary International Women's Day 2010: Women Worldwide Will Honor The Lives Of Feminist Leaders Who Died In Haiti's Earthquake

Sunday, March 7, 2010 - 19:00
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Human Rights
Initiative Type: 

Honoring the lives of feminist Haitian leaders who died in the massive earthquake on January 12th, will be the focus of International Women's Day on March 8, 2010, which is also the 100th anniversary of this annual celebration...Women's groups around the world are asked by the Haitian women's movement to organize a memorial activity as part of their celebration of International Women's Day in their countries and communities.

"The main activity will take place that day in Plaza Catherine Flon in Champ de Mars in the center of Port au Prince, a park that symbolizes Haitian women's participation to the war towards independence two centuries ago.

It is being organized by the Haitian women's organizations locally to acknowledge and honor the human suffering of the catastrophe in Haiti, promore feminist values based on the human rights of all, the struggle for well being of all in Haiti and urban planning, reaffirm feminist struggles despite the loss of significant feminist leaders, strengthen solidarity and display a MEMORIA which will take the form of testimonies, a mural and a slide show.

Women's groups around the world are asked by the Haitian women's movement to organize a memorial activity as part of their celebration of International Women's Day in their countries and communities.

“We are calling organizations throughout the world to join us that day to honor and mourn our loss of feminist activists which will allow us to revive and recreate momentum of the Haitian women's movement to continue the important work of our fallen leaders and the legacy they have left for those of us who continue the work,” said Lise Marie Dejean of Solidarite Fanm Ayisyen (Solidarity with Haitian Women, or SOFA).

She added that surviving feminists will organize an activity in Haiti's Catherine Flon plaza that day where some will share what they learned from the three feminist leaders to be honored: Myriam Merlet, Magali Marcelin, and Anne Marie Coriolan.

All three leaders had a long standing trajectory in feminist activism reforming a judiciary that never took rape seriously, creating organizations and houses to protect girls and women against domestic violence and trafficking, publishing a feminist newspaper, expanding a documentary center and an historical archive, and struggling for the protection of sexual and reproductive rights.

Merlet was a feminist activist, and an advisor and former chief-of-staff for the Haitian Minister of Women. As an outspoken activist, Merlet helped draw international attention to the use of rape as a political weapon, and other issues related to violence against women and girls. She was one of the founders of Enfofanm, the first feminist information and documentation center that also promotes women's rights.

Magalin Marcelin, a lawyer, activist and actress, who two years ago urged women to pack a courtroom in Haiti, where she succeeded in getting a guilty verdict against a man who battered his wife. Marcelin was a founder of Kay Fanm, a women's rights organization that deals with domestic violence, offers services and shelter to women and provides microcredit, or loans, to women working in markets.

Anne Marie Coriolan served as a top advisor to the women's ministry. Assisted by their efforts, the ministry developed key initiatives to raise awareness of violence against women and created programs to help women gain financial independence. Coriolan was also the founder of Solidarite Fanm Ayisyen (Solidarity with Haitian Women, or SOFA), an advocacy and services organization.

To honor these three feminist leaders, among others killed in the quake, activities are being planned worldwide, including a special roundtable at the United Nations Headquarters in New York during the CSW (Commission on the Status of Women) organized by The Feminist International Solidarity Camp, CAFRA (Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action), the Huairou Commission, The Association for Women's Rights and Development (AWID), among many other organizations and networks.

The proceedings of the CSW which will take place during the Beijing +15** sessions, will include a panel about women in Haiti towards a proposed resolution for CSW to adopt regarding Haiti and Haitian women. Women's organizations and networks claim that the world has responded with shock and quick action to the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January 12th. However, emergency relief can be either a catalyst for women's leadership and community autonomy, or it can impose unequal power structures, militarized responses, and dependency. Several women's organizations are already working to assure that women's voices are present now, in emergency relief decisions, and in the rebuilding of Haiti. In addition, women's groups are working to guarantee that women's human rights are upheld in this crisis situation and in the months ahead.

Local activities in other countries for March 8th have already been announced by women's organizations in Chile, Argentina, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Canada, etc.

The Feminist International Camp is also requesting a statement of solidarity from the Nobel Women's Initiative.

The initiative to commemorate the 8th of March by honoring Haitian feminists emerged from a Haitian women's meeting on January 24th in Port au Prince, which was then adopted at a Latin American and Caribbean meeting of the International Feminist Solidarity Camp Myriam Merlet, Magali Marcelin, and Anne Marie Coriolan, held in the Dominican Republic on January 26-27.

Catherine Flon is widely regarded by Haitians as one of the heroes of the struggle to put an end slavery, as she sew the first Haitian flag on May 18th 1803 on the last day of the colonial congress session where leaders of the revolution at that session "solemnly swore an oath to liberty or death on the flag which then lead the slaves to victory and freedom. This oath is known historically as the Oath of the Ancestors.

International Women's Day emerged out of women's activities in labor movements during the 19th and early 20th centuries, established formally at the Socialists International Meeting in Copenhagen in 1910, attended by over 100 women from 17 countries.
International Women's Day expanded and was celebrated in a growing number of countries, and in 1977 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women's Rights and International Peace. In passing this resolution, the UN “recognized the role of women in peace efforts and development and urged an end to discrimination and an increase of support for women's full and equal participation.”

** Beijing + 15 is the 15-year follow-up to the 1995 UN World Conference on Women in Beijing."