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.
• 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
The Way Forward: Learning from Disaster
“We need education in our country, but that has to include civic education, says Soeurette Policar of Lig Pouvwa Fanm, reviewing the road ahead for Haitian women. “It’s not enough to have schools everywhere for children; you need to educate people about how to live with someone, how to protect the environment, how to communicate with others. We need that type of education in Haiti.”
For leaders like her, adult and rural education tops the to-do list for adult women and those in rural areas. They are looking at the lessons from post-conflict countries like Liberia and Rwanda who are integrating peacemaking and sexual violence into school-based education and targeting men and boys for social reeducation, too.
In war-ravaged Liberia, President Sirleaf Johnson’s first bold steps included focusing on sexual violence, adult education, and on small-scale women entrepreneurs as critical targets of post-disaster recovery. Her government established women-led informal markets and a Liberia Market Women’s Fund, backed by high-powered African and American women, to help women get what Haitians call ti kredi—a little credit. Sharing her success and lessons at the Clinton power-fest, Johnson touched on steps Haiti could take. They include organizing women into effective trade organizations, and helping women farmers have a greater voice and vote in agrarian kombits—rural work cooperatives.
Other economic steps that could help: savings accounts geared toward girls and programs of financial literacy such as those being done by Banco ADOPE, a microfinance institution in the neighboring Dominican Republic. Another is to allocate business profits to deal with short-term emergencies, this one cited by co-authors Isabel Coleman and Mary Ellen Iskenderian, in an article about "Putting Women at the Center of Building Back Better in Haiti,” that was published in the journal Innovations for the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York. It highlights highlight case studies and strategies to rebuild Haiti.
Others urge the government and private groups to recruit and train more women for arriving reconstruction jobs. Women held 40% of the post-quake Cash for Work jobs in Haiti—a promising figure. What about paying women in camps to do childcare and work as teachers, to be trained as lay midwives, trauma, and rape counselors? What about helping more women learn to retrofit their houses and secure non-traditional jobs, working in recycling and renewable energy—a goal of groups like Architects for Humanity, Build Change, and others now in Haiti?
If Mme. Manigat wins in November and helps push through a reform of paternity laws with more women in Congress, this could help pave the way for joint land titling (registering property in both a husband and wife’s name)—a critical step on the women’s agenda now. This was a successful post-tsunami step that World Vision helped implement in Aceh, Indonesia. If Haiti reformed its inheritance laws (like Rwanda, Liberia, and recently, Kenya), daughters would inherit equally as their brothers. That could help many orphaned girls now. Such stepping-stones offer real bricks for women and girls to rebuild not only their own lives, but Haitian society.
On the security front, Liberia offers another model. UN reports showing that after an influx of female peacekeepers, only 18 peacekeepers were accused of sexual abuse in Liberia. That’s one reason UN MINUSTAH officials brought in a 160-member Bangladeshi women peacekeeping unit to beef up security in Haiti’s camps. But since neither they nor Brazilian MINUSTAH forces speak Creole, there’s been a limited opportunity for sharing lessons with Haitian women leaders or those managing tent cities. Training Haitian women and men to protect their own citizens might yield better results. More women have been recruited into Haiti’s police force post-quake – a positive step.
Another big one would be to push Haiti’s next president—man or woman—to mobilize Haitian men and male leaders to become engaged leaders in a national fight against rape. Who better than a global superstar rapper and youth leader like Wyclef Jean, revered by Haitian teenage boys? He’d find good company in global leaders like Stephen Lewis, who helped spearhead creation of UN Women, after witnessing close up a decade of war-rape in Africa. Or Ashton and Demi, who launched their ‘Real Men Don’t Buy Women’ campaign against sexual slavery at the Clinton meeting. Or celebrities like Sean Penn, who’s taken over running of a major camp in Haiti. Most important are the many Haitian fathers and male relatives who are heartsick about failing to protect their female loved ones from rape by armed gang members.
On the health front, the opportunities to hire and train ordinary women are plentiful, including as midwives, peer counselors, health educators, and health professionals. With 40% of women of childbearing age lacking contraception in Haiti, the highest fertility rate in the region (4.7 children per women on average) and rising cases of forced pregnancies from rape, the demand is there. That includes hiring young women to be youth educators and help run teen girl support groups. All are examples of what Haiti needs and could do now.