HAITI: Restoring Shelter from Violence

Friday, June 4, 2010
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding
Human Rights

UNIFEM programmes in Haiti to assist survivors of gender-based violence received a boost from a recent donation of US $50,000 by OMEGA. The watch manufacturer, through a partnership with UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman, has spurred actions to end violence against women through a challenge grant for women's organizations.In Haiti, OMEGA funds will go towards constructing women's shelters. These provide critical safe havens given Haiti's upsurge in violence against women since the 2010 earthquake. Rape and other forms of gender-based violence have particularly afflicted the temporary camps where a million people maintain a tenuous hold on rebuilding their lives.

In the months since the quake, UNIFEM has worked with the national women's ministry and experienced local women's groups to train and dispatch mobile teams that carry out prevention and referral services for women survivors of violence. Free mobile phones link the teams with the police and women's centres. As part of restoring police protection, UNIFEM has funded motorcycles for police stations to respond to sexual violence cases.

Over 50 temporary shelters have been set up to replace those damaged by the quake. Staffed by trained volunteers, they offer immediate recognition and prompt management of cases of violence. This both encourages survivors to report cases and sends the message to perpetrators that they cannot act with impunity—some cases are now reaching the court system, which is slowly beginning to function again.

To stop violence and make gender equality part of the future of Haiti, Haitian women need to play an equal role in reconstruction. At the household level, they are already doing more than their share, comprising more than two-thirds of household heads. UNIFEM's Haiti office is urging the inclusion of gender equality experts in all phases and sectors of reconstruction—the only way that women will receive the resources and services they need and deserve.

One UNIFEM programme supports the Network of Women in Community Radio (REFRAKA), an important conduit for women's voices in a country where radio remains a popular medium. A record number of women now work in radio journalism in part due to training through REFRAKA that had been ongoing before the earthquake. In the works is a series of 24 programmes on women's lives since the quake and their participation in rebuilding their country.