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Additional Coverage Special Report—Haiti

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.

• Take a look at SPECIAL REPORT: Haiti Elections—Why Vote for a Woman? to read interviews with Haiti's three female presidential candidates to learn more about their platforms.

• 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, Women, and the Elections: Following Africa's Lead

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© Cameron Davidson

As Haiti gears up for its November 28 elections, World Pulse talked to dozens of women on the ground to find out what’s needed to rebuild the post-earthquake nation.

BY SPECIAL REPORT EDITOR ANNE-CHRISTINE D'ADESKY WITH JACOB KUSHNER

In January, World Pulse teamed up with longtime journalist and regular contributor Anne-christine d’Adesky to spotlight the response of Haiti’s women to the earthquake. We’ve also been happy to provide a digital home on PulseWire for PotoFanm+Fi, a Haiti advocacy group that formed post-quake to support women and girls in Haiti.

Today, we’re featuring a Special Report on Women, Haiti, and the Elections—a package of articles, poems, and photographs that capture what women leaders are doing and how they envision change. This is the first installment in the series.

Port-au-Prince—

On September 25, a series of urgent SMS text messages from Haiti sent many racing to their computers and radios again, fearing the worst. Like the historic 30-second earthquake that leveled much of Haiti on January 12, a freak storm had slipped over the mountains, creating fresh calamity. Amwe! Help! ran the tweets and texts. Nouvo krase! We’re crushed again.

This time, the falling structures were not 18th-century gingerbread houses, but UN tents and loose tarps erected amid and on top of quake rubble and on arid plains that still house over a million still-displaced quake survivors. Many are women and children.

Many of the women we work with in the camps are injured and homeless, again!!! a Partners in Health colleague texted. The TB tent at the general hospital was blown away and the 70 patients, some on oxygen, were standing in the rain crying... seems WHO was able to send another tent, but in another camp, the medical clinic tent also went down and has not yet been replaced.

The SOS texts arrived just as Haitian and world leaders mingled with Hollywood celebrities at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting in New York to discuss Haiti’s progress and its upcoming elections. One hot topic: What are the chances a woman may take office now, reversing Haiti’s long history of male presidents? Mirlande Manigat, an ex-First Lady and professor, is currently leading a crowded field of now 19 hopefuls that also include Josette Bijou, a physician and ex-Minister of Health. Another 15 were rejected by Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), including global hip hop star Wyclef Jean, a Haitian-American with primary residency in New Jersey, and Claire-Lydie Parent, the mayor of Petionville, a suburb of the destroyed capital, Port-au-Prince.

Globally, the presence of two women has excited Haiti watchers, yet in Haiti itself, the exclusion of candidates, some on technicalities, has raised fresh criticism of the CEP, and charges that Haiti’s current president, Réne Préval, is calling the shots. At press time, many opposition parties planned to boycott or sit out the elections, including women’s groups to the left of the political spectrum.

Elections or Selections?

“In Haiti we say these elections are a selection,” says Yolette Gentil, director of Kay Fanm, an NGO helping women who are raped find safer shelter. “It’s not possible to have an election right now. All the registration lists were destroyed. We aren’t able to know who is dead and who is alive. This is something that makes the election not serious.” She adds, “There is no transparency.”

In February, a destroyed Haiti postponed its planned elections, which allowed Préval to stay on. But for how long? Many inside and outside of Haiti pushed Préval to set a fall date for new elections – their barometer of democracy. But as Gentil points out, the current post-quake conditions in Haiti make citizen participation very difficult at best for candidates and voters. “This is just a pretext to force us to have elections right now under the wrong conditions,” Gentil adds.

Such factors reflect what Haitians call mauvaises politiques in French—bad politics, or corruption. Haiti’s CEP is widely seen as corrupt and came under early fire for excluding Fanmi Lavalas, the most popular Haitian party. Lavalas elected populist President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991 before he was overthrown, later restored to power, and then exiled to South Africa, paving the way for Préval to ascend. If Haiti had an election today, many believe Lavalas would win in a heartbeat. Instead, the teledjol, or rumor mill, is convinced that fraud will take place as it did in past elections, including questionable quarantining of ballots in 2006—Haiti’s version of the ‘hanging chad.’ Or, equally likely, very few Haitians will participate, but a winner will still be declared.

“Candidates from the three main political parties—Lespwa (Hope), Inite (Unity), and Lavalas – they are the same candidates for 30 years,” complained Gentil. “They are the same people in power, changing places. They are the ones who have put the country in this situation. They’re not going to be able to do anything after the earthquake.”

Such complaints have found a receptive audience. On October 8, 45 US Democratic lawmakers wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “to withhold funds for elections in Haiti next month if they are not going to be free, fair, and inclusive." . . .

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