MADRE Articles

Haiti's Women Face Echoes of a Violent Past

Posted on: Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Keywords: Haiti, Latin American and Caribbean, Combating Violence Against Women, Human Rights Avocacy

This piece was originally published on Women Under Siege, a Women's Media Center project.

By Yifat Susskind, MADRE Executive Director

After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, stories of the disaster dominated international news media. Journalists rushed to report on the wreckage. Photographers scrambled for shots of the rubble. Aid agencies struggled to overcome obstacles to sending humanitarian aid.

As an international women’s human rights organization that works in partnership with local women, we at MADRE immediately reached out to our grassroots partners. Since the 1990s, we’d worked with women leaders there to provide medical care, counseling, and legal support to women targeted with rape because of their advocacy during the pro-democracy movement. So when the earthquake struck, we were able to mobilize quickly to make sure women and their families had the basics for survival—food, water purification tablets, and plastic sheeting for shelter.

Soon the women began to tell us that they were witnessing a rise in sexualized violence. Overcrowded, unlit, and unpatrolled displacement camps—combined with the disintegration of community networks that had protected women and girls—contributed to this escalation.

But there was already a disaster in progress before the earthquake hit.

Years of political upheaval plagued Haiti in the early 1990s and 2000s. In 1991, its first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was overthrown by a military coup... [click here to continue reading]

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