Additional Coverage Special Report—Haiti
This story is just one article in our special report on Haiti's women's movement.
We'll be adding more stories in the coming weeks—for now, take a look at other articles in this series.
• Read an assessment of the earthquake's impact on Haiti's women's movement in Honoring the Ancestors.
• Internationally acclaimed author and memoirist Edwidge Danticat on her homeland, post disaster.
• View photographer Nadia Todres's powerful photo essay, Documenting the Lives of Girls in Haiti.
• Read Didi Bertrand's column, Bearing Witness: Girls and Women in Haiti's Camps.
• Read the first story in this series, SPECIAL REPORT: Haiti, Women, and the Elections, which takes an in-depth look at women on the ground and the upcoming elections.
• Read World Pulse and Anne-christine d'Adesky's previous coverage on the earthquake, Holding Up Haiti: Women Respond to Nightmare Earthquake, published shortly after news broke of the devastating earthquake.
SPECIAL REPORT: Haiti—Why Vote for a Woman?
3 Women Candidates Speak
We interviewed the two women who represent the pink vote in Haiti's presidential election—plus one who didn't make the electoral cut—to ask, "Why should Haitian women vote for you?"
"I want to create a new political class full of women, strong, and capable of running the country well."
BY ANNE-CHRISTINE D'ADESKY WITH JACOB KUSHNER
Josette Bijou: Independent Candidate
As a physician and specialist in maternal care, Dr. Josette Bijou is running for Haiti’s top seat with a plan to improve care for Haiti’s mothers and families. She's a mother herself, with a grown son. She’s also an ex-Minister of Health with a strong background in public administration. She’s viewed favorably in Haiti as a strong woman, though some Haitian feminists are critical of her tenure as health minister, arguing that she did not respond to their longstanding demand for a national policy requiring doctors to document and report rapes, and to provide women who say they were raped with a written certificate admissible as legal evidence in a rape case. Here Dr. Bijou explains why she’s running and what she wants for women.
What is your program for women?
Every day I work with women. I’ve worked in maternal health, which is my first primary priority. For five years at the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), I was responsible for money. I did lots of work with the women organizations. As Minister of health, I decided to transform the maternity hospital, which is the only hospital for women into a center of excellence. That maternity (hospital) is in an unfavorable area. [But] I wanted underprivileged women to have the same level of treatment as the women with money.
For me, it’s not about supporting women more than the men. It’s for both. But we need to have special consideration for women […] because we have needs that men don’t. Generally in the world, women are the most impoverished. Economically, we need to permit them to advance economically, and to be able to do that, they need education. Education is what gives them the opportunity to work—to find good work. I am administrator of the National Association of Microfinance Institutions of Haiti. The majority of the beneficiaries are women. Microfinance can make their businesses more profitable.
Why should women vote for you?
First, I am a type that will advance the affairs of the state. It would be a victory for the women of this country. A woman truly understands women’s problems. I have a long history of working with women in development and health. For all these reasons, I think I am in a good place to deserve their votes.
Both (other) female candidates are militant politicians; Madame Parent in particular. The other woman [Manigat] is a professor. I am a doctor. I am close to the women, to their specific needs, to their health, and their social position. I know the Haitian territory. I visit political leaders, I visit the areas, and I know the problems. I work within development, administration, social life, agriculture, and with community organizations. I know public administration. I was Minister of Health and I’ve worked with international organizations.
Are women participating enough in politics?
It’s not sufficient. Culturally, we’ve crossed a period of great dictatorship—speaking of the ‘father’ of politics. But many women don’t participate in politics. Women normally are in charge of taking care of the children; that’s a reason there aren’t many women in politics. There aren’t many women senators—there are three in all of the central government.
If you were president, what are steps you might take to try to promote women's participation and rights? What are the most important issues to women?
I think you hear women continually claim the problem is the political life. It’s a priority of my program is to resolve the political problem of this country. To do this, we need to stimulate the women to participate as voters. I want to create a new political class full of women, strong, and capable of running the country well. There are many women’s organizations in this country.
Women have this mindset that they are not capable of doing things that men do. I have done good work, I will do more, and I will do it better than men have done it. I think my election would stimulate women and I imagine that my victory would be symbolic [for them].
What are two actions the next president of Haiti might take to speed up Haiti's
recovery from the January 12 disaster?
There’s no difference between men and women there—every person should do what they can. I’m a doctor, so I go to give medicine, to organize responses, to visit the health clinics. The women are in a very grave situation—there are a lot them that are heads of the family. There are women that take care of children themselves, without a man, with adolescents that were raped. The situation of women is even more difficult than the situation of men.
What do you offer as an independent that an endorsed candidate cannot?
We have a lot of parties that have problems. This election is a political crisis—too many parties, not enough participation. I think that as an independent, I’m capable of bringing all the parties to the table to define a new political system for our country.
Do you think a lot of women will vote in this election?
I think a good part of the population pays attention. I think they will vote.
Are you confident that these elections will bring about change?
These elections are necessary, because we need a new president. Whether these elections are going to change things depends on which candidate wins.
Turn to the next page to read an interview with front-runner Mirlande Manigat. . . .