'Kembe Fen' -- Stand Firm in Solidarity with Haiti
January 25, 2010 posted by Linda Basch
Over a week has passed since the earthquake in Haiti shook the world. Our hearts go out to the people of Haiti and those who have gone to help in relief efforts. We learn with sadness about the many lives lost, including key players in the Haitian women's movement. Experts are uniting behind the idea that the most effective way to help presently is to donate money.
Many members of the National Council for Research on Women network are involved in various humanitarian efforts in Haiti. Of particular concern is the gender dimension and ensuring that women and children's specific needs are not overlooked or undervalued.
Below is news about some efforts under way in sending both relief and funds to the people of Haiti. We are concerned with efforts to address the present dire situation, but also with those directed toward rebuilding the country's infrastructure and institutions. I hope you find this useful.
Kembe fen - Stand firm! Karen Ashmore, Executive Director Lambi Fund of Haiti
With the recent earthquake, Haiti lost three important feminist leaders.
Myriam Merlet, 53, was until recently the chief of staff of Haiti's Ministry for Gender and the Rights of Women, established in 1995, and still served as a top adviser. She died after being trapped beneath her collapsed Port-au-Prince home.
She was a founder of Enfofamn, an organization that raises awareness about women through media, collects stories and works to honor their names. Among her efforts, she set out to get streets named after Haitian women who came before her. She was featured in the book Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of Survival and Resistance by Beverly Bell.
Magalie Marcelin, a lawyer and actress who appeared in films and on stage, established Kay Fanm, a women's rights organization that deals with domestic violence, offers services and shelter to women and makes micro loans to women. Her own daughter helped dig her body out from rubble in the aftermath of the quake.
Anne Marie Coriolan, 53, served as a top adviser to the women's rights ministry, and died when her boyfriend's home collapsed. She was the founder of Solidarite Fanm Ayisyen (Solidarity with Haitian Women, or SOFA), a leading women's advocacy and services organization.
Before the earthquake last week, a survey of Haitian women and girls showed an estimated 72 percent had been raped, according to study done by Kay Fanm. At least 40 percent of the women surveyed indicated they also were victims of domestic violence.
Protection of human rights, particularly those of women and children, is as important as providing immediate shelter, food and medical attention, says Taina Bien-Aimé, the executive director of Equality Now, a human rights organization dedicated to women. In Haiti, women often come last in terms of protection from violence.
Rarely are women included in policymaking and national leadership. Most of the elected officials are male. The highly popular Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis was removed from office last year by a largely male contingent.
When I first started working for Lambi Fund seven years ago, I saw no women presidents of the peasant groups with which we partnered. During the year 2007 I met for the first time a woman president of one of our rural grassroots partners. Her name is Anaise Saintius and she is head of the Association for the Development of Kasis (ADZK), which has a successful pig breeding enterprise that Lambi Fund helped them start.
The next year I met more and more women leaders of peasant groups. A few short years later, it is not unusual at all to see women leading community organizations in rural Haiti. I am very proud of Lambi Fund's role in helping make that happen.
The Lambi Fund of Haiti is committed to gender equity in Haiti. Practicing what we preach, the Haiti Director, US Director and Board Chair are all women. Lambi Fund sponsors two women's leadership conferences a year for peasant women. In the past two years, Lambi Fund has convened gender equity roundtables in rural Haiti with male and female participants so that men understand the reasons why power must be shared with women.
We must continue to work hard to progress with women's issues everywhere, but especially in Haiti. I urge you to support Lambi Fund of Haiti and its commitment to women. You can donate online at www.lambifund.org or send checks to the US office at PO Box 18955, Washington DC 20036. Email us at email@example.com if you have questions.
As Haitians say "kenbe fem" or stand firm!
News Updates and Guides to Giving
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is on-the ground in Haiti and responding to the needs of pregnant and vulnerable women.
HAITI UPDATE from the Americans for UNFPA: Maternal Health Emergency
The Ms. Foundation for Women has issued recommendations to help guide people's giving, emphasizing the importance of funding community-based organizations, local organizations with a social-justice lens, and grassroots organizations with a gender lens.
Special article by Amanda Furness posted by the Women’s Media Center: Haiti: Absent in Life, Death and On the Evening
The Gender and Disaster Network urges all actors responding to the Haitian earthquake to adopt a gender-responsive approach that builds on women's capacities and resources while reflecting the gender-specific needs of women and men, boys and girls.
The Women's Refugee Commission has identified 10 pressing needs that must be met during the first weeks and months of an emergency to ensure the safety and well-being of people displaced by the emergency.
Partners in Health have pinpointed the most critical needs towards their efforts in Haiti.
Recommended Reading: Feminist Analysis of Natural Disasters