Deliver "Dignity and Action" Kits to Haiti's Adolescent Girls
BY ANNE-CHRISTINE D’ADESKY
While the global outpouring of help and funds for Haiti’s earthquake survivors has been historic—one in of five Americans apparently responded—adolescent girls have been overlooked in relief efforts.
Pre-earthquake, 42% of girls in urban areas aged 10-14 years old lived without parents. These numbers have increased since January, leaving girls as young as 10 to provide for their younger siblings. A rising number of rapes and unplanned pregnancies among adolescent girls underscore the dangerous conditions they face in Haiti’s tent cities. One study by INURED, a local Haitian research organization, found that it’s common for girls living in relief camps to resort to trading sex for food and shelter.
The Haiti Adolescent Girls Network (HAGN), a coalition of humanitarian organizations and individuals, was recently launched to respond to these urgent needs. While the post-earthquake crisis in Haiti is far from over, the emergence of HAGN is a bright spot in the lives of Haiti's girls. You can make that bright spot even brighter by advocating to channel Haiti recovery funds to the most vulnerable populations, and by donating to organizations like the Haiti Adolescent Girls Network.
HAGN is focusing on quickly establishing safe shelters and bringing girls together weekly in girls-only spaces via its new Espas Pa Mwen program ("My Space" in Kreyol). The program is modeled after pioneering safe space programs in Malawi and other countries of sub-Saharan Africa, where girls' vulnerability is exacerbated by HIV/AIDS and ongoing structural collapse. These programs were piloted in the field by the Population Council, the key HAGN cosponsor with Americares. The model teams girls with trained women mentors and will provide a range of services and resources. It focuses on mentoring and life skills, training in income generation activities, and education.
“We are empowering adolescent girls to secure their rights and health, receive psychological support, continue their education, and find safe and productive livelihoods,” said Judith Bruce, Senior Associate and Policy Analyst at the Population Council. “As their future is reconfigured so are the families they support and the communities in which they live.”
The Network hopes to set up at least 20 pilot sites for girls groups and reach over 1000 girls, aged 10-18, living in displaced communities. It will target the most vulnerable girls, including pregnant girls and girls with babies, disabled girls, girls 10-14 entering puberty who are orphans or living with a single parent, girls 10-19 living in camps with the highest rates of sexual violence, and girl survivors of rape and sexual abuse. They will be provided with a “Dignity and Action Kit” of personal hygiene and safety items, information, and emergency resources. The program is also focusing on job creation, including the assembly of dignity kits by older girls, and a savings program. While jobs are one end goal, the program focuses on helping girls survive periods of crisis by building up what are called ‘protective assets’ in NGO-speak: stronger social ties with friends and mentors, and access to safe spaces, including health care.