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Building Back Better: A New Future for Haiti 's Women

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/berlotte-israel/building-back-better-a-ne_...

Building Back Better: A New Future for Haiti 's Women

Berlotte Israel and Margaret Satterthwaite

March 8, 2010

Hundreds of thousands of Haitian families are sleeping on the streets of Port-au-Prince . Each night, women rock their babies to sleep, hush their children, and try to rest. Many nights, worries keep these women awake: the children are hungry; the rains are coming; the baby is sick.

In this broken city, women also fear violence. Husbands, brothers, and neighbors patrol the makeshift camps to protect them from strangers. But, for some women, the very men standing over them are the ones to fear: who can these women turn to for hope and protection?

Three women- Myriam Merlet , Anne Marie Coriolan, and Magalie Marcelin -- could have provided the answer and some refuge. These women rights' advocates created support services and fought on behalf of women facing domestic violence, rape, and exploitation. All three lost their lives in the earthquake. In their absence, we must carry on and provide hope through solidarity with the women of Haiti .

Solidarity must start today, International Women's Day. It can begin with an effort to join forces across the gulf of experience to learn about each other's lives. For Haitian women today, solidarity means seeking an end to the gender-based violence that can flourish in disasters. It also requires countering the structural violence of hunger, contaminated water, and unsafe housing -- violence that was part of the daily lives of many Haitian women well before the earthquake struck.

Ensuring women's immediate needs in these desperate days is not enough; women's voices must also be heard for the long term. Government officials in Port-au-Prince , Washington , and donor countries around the world must ensure that women are empowered to change the future of their country. Empowering Haitian women now will mean better outcomes in the rebuilding efforts.

Today, women face enormous obstacles, especially when they have been raped or sexually harassed. Long treks to collect water often keep girls out of school and stymie their opportunities to escape poverty. Women die during pregnancy and labor at a rate far higher than anywhere else in the region. Plans for Haiti 's future should ensure access to justice for women who have suffered rape or sexual harassment. They should reduce the time women and girls spend collecting water each day by building accessible public water systems. Public health systems should be strengthened with the aim of improving maternal health. Healthy mothers translate into healthy families. And the right to education -- protected in the Haitian constitution -- should be made a reality for every little girl across Haiti . Educated women are drivers of sustainable development around the world.

For the women who lost their lives in the earthquake, for the women sleeping in the streets, and for the women who seek a brighter future, we must stand, side by side, and demand results. We, who live in wealthy countries like the United States , must demand that our governments keep their promises to the women of Haiti . Keeping these promises could help Haiti 's women change the future of their country, for good.

Berlotte Israel is a Human Rights Advocacy Coordinator and Chair of the Survivors' Advocacy Board at Dwa Fanm, a Haitian women's organization in Brooklyn .

Margaret Satterthwaite is a Faculty Director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law.

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jadefrank's picture

Welcome

Hi Berlotte,

Welcome to PulseWire!

Thank you for sharing this important insight to what International Women's Day and every day means for the women of Haiti and the challenges now of protecting the rights and and safety of women post-earthquake.

Please join us in the Poto Mitan: Rebuilding Haiti Organizing Group!
http://www.worldpulse.com/pulsewire/groups/17967

We are so happy to have you here in our community of grassroots women leaders who are raising their voices for change!

Warm regards,
Jade

Online Community Manager
World Pulse

booklover's picture

Building Back Better

Hi Berlotte,

I am new to Pulsewire, and I was very moved by your report on Haiti and what you describe as the necessary protections for Haitian women as well as the immediate and future benefits to be gained by empowering them during the rebuilding. I know that Haitian women will play a vital role in Haiti's future. I live in Brooklyn, but I'm currently a friend and advisor to Marie Bonheur Gulotta in Buford, Georgia, who is planning to go to Haiti next month as part of the humanitarian effort. I 'm going to share your essay with her and would like to put both of you in touch with each other. It is essential that she know as much as possible about the actual and current situation of women and children in Haiti.

I hope that I can add you to my posse, Berlotte. The concept behind "posse" underscores the importance of supporting the individual and the power of the collaboration. Margaret Mead wrote, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has...

sincere regards

booklover

michellee's picture

A warm welcome!

Hi Berlotte,

I'm so glad you joined PulseWire! Many of us are interested in hearing about the ongoing reconstruction efforts in Haiti and I hope you keep us updated on the situation there. You have joined an amazing community of inspiring members like yourself and we warmly welcome your voice to this conversation that is going on all over the world. Let me know if you have any questions about PulseWire and I will help to get you started. I look forward to hearing more from you!

Be well,

Michelle
World Pulse Technology Associate

Marie Bonheur-Gulotta's picture

Thank You Berlotte

I will be going to Haiti soon. When I go I intend to bring women, children, and men clothes. I know the need is more than just clothes. I did not want to come empty handed. Maybe you can help me to assess needs. I'm writing for a mental health grant, for counseling that the Haitian women endured. Can we all come together to write a grant to global fund for women. Requesting funding just for basic needs to help the tent communities.. Even Haitian communities that is not receiving no help at all. There are communities that no aid have reach them. I want to work with the Restavek children they are suffering! I would love to hear your thoughts, comments or questions that you might have. Lets stay engage on these issues. Thank you for reaching out to me. Suzanne Rubinstein lives in Park Slope Brooklyn she is a recent member of World Pulse and would love to hear your ideas.

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