International Women's Day in Haiti
Posted on: Tuesday, March 9, 2010
María Suárez Toro, of the Feminist International Radio Endeavor (FIRE), sent us this description of the International Women's Day event that took place in Haiti. The event was in part organized by our partners from the Feminist International Solidarity Camp.
It’s the eve of March 8, 2010, the centenary of International Women’s Day. The pile of rubble in the destroyed Ministry of Women’s Condition and Women’s Rights building has been completely cleared to make way for the installation of a giant tent that accommodates more than a thousand activists who await the start of a tribute to women, especially to those who lost their lives in the earthquake of January 12 almost two months ago.
A monument to these women will be unveiled by Minister Marjorie Michel at an event that seeks to both commemorate International Women’s Day and uplift a Ministry that has lost a Director General, Myrna Narcisse Theodore, and two collaborators, Mitnnel Azor and Jean Yxon Andre, whose names appear on the monument.
They lost invaluable advisers that don’t appear on the monument. Myriam Merlet, Anna Marie Coriolán, Magalie Marcelin and thousands of activist victims who lie in cemeteries, common graves, on the outskirts of the places where they died or were born or lived and, above all, where they remain in the memory and the pain of everyone present.
They are all in the heart of the public. They are Gina Porcena, Myriam Merlet, Magalie Marcelin, Ann Marie Coriolán, Mireille Annglade, Cléante Lydia Fernande Olga, Nadine Doucet Sassine, Valéry Tardieu Desmangles, Chantal Joachim, Marie Michelle Gaspar, Alice Solange Therese Fernande, Madeleine Yvonne Jeanne Suzanne and many others.
On the bottom of the improvised platform, a blanket carrying the names and biographies of the women who fought for women’s human rights sways gently in the winter breeze.
On the day of, the official activity turns into an artistic event, opening up stories, wounds and pain of those present. We begin a mourning process that little by little was turns into a determination to fight. A singer – Mimenrode Beaubrun – expresses it for everyone when, getting off the platform after singing two songs, she picks up two pieces of stone from the remaining rubble on the ground and makes music with them. The dry and syncopated sound of the pieces of inert stone restores the life of death. The women live and will live in our struggles, in our historical memory and in the knowledge and affection that they left us.
The meeting is held on Pacot Street in front of the National Coordination for Advocacy on Women’s Rights (CONAP) building to the north of the city. It is a tribute to the lives of the three feminists who formed part of the founding group of Haitian feminism with actions marked by “the love of justice, the love of equality, the love of love itself”, as stated at the event by Maile, the daughter of Magalie Marcelin.
The entire street is covered by eight huge canopies that let in a soft blue light that illuminates the platform and the three small tables with photos of Magalie, Myrian, and Ann Marie, bunches of flowers and candles on each. There are blankets and more than 600 women wearing white t-shirts in mourning and homage. One by one, the women of the organizations of CONAP, relatives of the earthquake victims and friends of the mourning move around the platform with lighted candles and words of sorrow and recognition.
There are many men and many journalists. The families of the feminists who passed away are present and in the front row. There are former ministers, directors of the municipality of the city, officials of international agencies of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations (UN), among others. They circulate the newspapers Ayiti Fanm of ENFOFANM and Quehaceres of CIPAF, both dedicated to the tribute. Feminist International Radio transmits the commemoration events live.
There are representatives of women’s organizations from Martinique; from the Dominican Republic, women who traveled all night in three buses from the neighboring country; from Puerto Rico, women who came by air and land; from Costa Rica, Canada, Chile; and from the World March of Women, and many more countries and organizations. They bring messages that speak of the need to sustain solidarity in a context where poverty is a great setback that, together with the earthquake, puts the worst burden on women. Many others in almost every country of the region arranged parallel events today to pay tribute to and grieve with Haitian women.
“I know that they are here…delivering honor to our ancestors. I know that they are here resisting, drawing strength from the bottom of the ocean. They are here like the Amazonian women, lighting the earth to fertilize the fire. They are here because they know what a lot of pain is…because they know that the tears are flooding our hearts…” said Sergia Galván, adding that “they are angry about the women who are still beneath the rubble, because there are some thousands of lives they want to recover. But we know that the responsibility lies with the development model, the inequality, the poverty and injustice. They are furious because their country, a huge force in the abolition of slavery, is today trying to enslave them under the premise of impracticality and a supposed failed state. But they are here as well to give us strength, to open the way, to retrain us with their wisdom, for the possible Haiti that they always fought for…”
At night, while some women travel home to their countries and others rest from an intense day of preparation, the Feminist International Radio Endeavor and the Feminist International Solidarity Camp show movies in French, open-air cinema style, for girls and women, and the boys and men who accompany them. In “Kirikou and the Sorceress”, an African movie based on a story that has been told for generations, Karaba the witch has cast a spell that has dried the rivers, and the village men are being haunted, kidnapped or mysteriously disappearing. Kirikou climbs the witch’s mountain and uncovers the mysteries surrounding her. A movie for adults, “El Camino”, was also presented on the night for an intimate group of human rights activists, feminists, former ministers, academics and camp leaders in the zone of Peggy Ville.
Ishtar Yasin, the Costa Rican filmmaker who directed the movie, not only organized the cinematographic activities in the camp, but also filmed the activities of the day to produce a video about March 8 in Haiti with FIRE.
Tonight, under the starry sky that can be glimpsed from the tents in the camps, Magali, Miriam, Ann Marie, and the rest, will be watching over the dreams of all Haitian women. Women who clamor for food, and for a worthy place in the relief and reconstruction effort, where Haiti is remodeled on the basis of equality and justice for everyone, with an end to violence and to the lack of work, health and education.