Earlier this month, I traveled to Port-au-Prince as a part of a GFW delegation to learn about the current situation of women in Haiti and to learn how we can best support women's roles in decision-making throughout the reconstruction process.
The trip was all that I knew it would be: exciting, challenging, and eye-opening; yet it was also vastly different from what I had expected. I met many dedicated, resilient women working to effect change in their country. But instead of finding a strong women's movement with a clear, unified purpose, I found a diverse network of dedicated individuals— each with her own personal and political identity—working within a complex collective history.
Nadine Louis, a leader of Fondation TOYA, a GFW grantee. Nadine is an insightful young woman who is aware of women's historic contributions and is dedicated to improving the situation of women in her country.
Many of these women are working to achieve similar goals – promoting women's voices and participation in social and political spheres, ending violence against women. But due to the political history of the last decade, the Haitian women's movement has experienced much fragmentation. It quickly became clear to me that there is no simple, clear-cut path to ensure women's full participation in the reconstruction process.
"What is your hope for Haiti?" we asked the Haitian women attending a meeting with our advisors. Many women voiced the desire to develop a common agenda and collective strategy while respecting the diversity in the movement. Others emphasized the need to hold international agencies and the Haitian government accountable during reconstruction, and the criticality of accurately documenting women's specific needs in reconstruction.
We met with several women's rights activists and groups in and around Port-au-Prince, including GFW grantee KOFAVIV, GFW grantee Fondation TOYA, REFRAKA, SOFA, ENFOFANM, and Fanm DESIDE.
We met Gilles Darline, a young woman who founded D'Elles Association Féministe, because, as she notes, “women feel comfortable within the patriarchal system...women do not have a vision for themselves...instead, they let men create an image for them.”
While many of the women we met have been working on Haitian women's rights issues well before the earthquake, we also met several young women who are responding directly to the disaster through new initiatives. Like Carine Extantus, a young woman in a camp who is blogging about her experiences, and Ismarthe Laurore, a young woman with the Camp Committee (KOK), a network of community members working to promote fair distribution of aid in the camps.
In light of the global effort to rebuild Haiti, I am most optimistic knowing there are talented Haitian women who are already an integral part of the process. The scope of their impact is yet to be determined – and we at the Global Fund for Women are committed to supporting them.