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?
"We want to teach women how to protect themselves from diseases, how to clean the water, to raise the children far from those diseases we can catch from water, from sex, from all of that."
Claire-Lydie Parent: The Mayor Kombit Party
Claire-Lydie Parent is the five-time mayor of Petionville, a charming, hilly suburb that sits above the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. She recently put in a bid to be president, but was rejected by Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council—one of 15 candidates excluded, including Haitian-American musician Wyclef Jean. Parent protested that decision, but is no longer officially in the running. Married, and with two children, she heads the Konbit party, which was founded four years ago. For now, her main pulpit remains City Hall, where she plays a prominent role in daily civic and political affairs. Here, Parent explains why she seeks higher office and what her party offers to women.
What is the Konbit platform for women?
On a political level, women are in a very important place in the economy of the country, but they are forgotten by the major parties. At Konbit, we motivate women to become candidates and participate in all elections, not just for president, but for mayors and deputies too.
Our program for women is that the majority of Haitians are in the agriculture culture. There are many women in the country that are involved in commerce, on the streets, but to really aid the government, they need to cultivate the earth too. Right now, the women that work the earth don’t have money to cultivate. We want to modernize agriculture. We want to have new material and equipment. We want to assist women by creating an agricultural bank, where they can buy credit to produce agriculture.
Tourism should also be developed, and the women should work within that—in the hotels, in the restaurants. We would like them to be managers, to learn to be chefs, and receptionists, and secretaries. We need technical schools.
Another thing is their health. We want to teach women how to protect themselves from diseases, how to clean the water, to raise the children far from those diseases we can catch from water, from sex, from all of that. We want women to be informed. This would also apply to women in prison. We want to assist them judicially, give them lawyers.
What are female voters looking for?
I think they want a change, but they don’t want just a change in gender; they want a woman who can prove herself. Someone who can make change. That’s why most of them want me to be president. That’s why they elected me five times already as mayor of Petionvlle.
What does KONBIT offer to women that other parties don’t?
What we offer that other parties don’t is that my presence as mayor proves that women can occupy an important place within the country. For example, we are the only municipality (Petionville) that has a program for women in prison. We have a program of financial assistance for street vendors. We have two trade/professional schools for women. In school we prioritize that girls can go to university. [At Konbit] we have many other programs that interest women.
What are the most important issues to women?
Education. Academic development. That the involvement of women in the development of the country is important. It’s about empowerment. [And] women should understand the Haitian laws.
Are women excited about the upcoming election? Will they participate?
They are not happy for many reasons: because most of them are victims from the earthquake, they are still on the streets, the economy is slowed down.... They are in trouble. They are not happy with the way they see the government and the CEP running the election. They are not happy because they see every time we have elections in Haiti, we have to beg for money to campaign. Too much money is spent on elections—they don’t like that. They are not happy because they feel the way that these elections are coming—they smell fraud, corruption..
Why do you think you were rejected by the CEP?
They don’t have a real reason, because a real reason should be based on something legal. In each term, you’re supposed to have discharge (a legal certificate confirming an annual audit of spending by government officials), but it is done at the end of each term. My term is four years. It’s not the first time I entered a race when I was still in power. Every year I spend money; they count and control it. To get the certificate, you’re supposed to go to the court to verify this. I gave that paper, which was the same one that [other candidates] gave.
What are you telling your supporters about who they should vote for?
I would never tell them not to vote. But we should be there to denounce what they are doing wrong with these elections. They should stay there to fight with them [the CEP]. Life in Haiti is a fight—we must fight for everything.