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Bachelet with women's organizations in Haiti: Actions to unite and reinforce the organization of women
Posted on: Thursday, February 25, 2010
“I’m not going to defend the women of Haiti by being president, but by being a woman convinced of the importance of the struggle of women for their rights” said Michelle Bachelet in her special meeting with the Minister for the Status of Women in Haiti and four delegates from women’s organizations last Saturday, February 20, in the gardens of the destroyed National Palace in Port-au-Prince.
An agenda of four points was presented by activists to the Chilean president in the company of the Minister for the Status of Women in Haiti, Marjorie Michel. One issue they referred to was the situation of women in Haiti after the earthquake. Other issues included the participation of women in the reconstruction of Haiti. They discussed the actions to prevent violence against women in the camps and the necessity of an eventual training of women in professions that are currently reserved for men.
The issue of the current violence against women stood out. Two stories of violence against women in camps were presented by activists who emphasized that these acts were registered in places where former prisoners who escaped from prison during the earthquake have settled. They expressed their demand for preventative measures in the camps such as the reestablishment of a public alarm, and distributing food and other services within their own camps.
The central role of women in the context of disaster and reconstruction remained confirmed in the meeting, as well as the different responses required to take into account the needs of women and girls. The importance of strengthening the presence of voices and perspectives of women in decision-making for the future of Haiti was a recurring theme.
An additional issue that wasn’t on the original agenda was health, highlighting the necessity of measures to reduce the high incidence of maternal mortality and to improve sexual and reproductive health. This country has the highest incidence of mortality in the entire eastern hemisphere, with indicators from the UN in 2006 showing that out of 100,000 women, 630 died of pregnancy-related causes.
“Bachelet was very happy and receptive with us” Lise-Marie Déjean from the Haitian Women’s Solidarity Movement, who acted as translator at the meeting, told us. “She explained to us that Chile is a country of earthquakes, but preventative education exists to avoid major catastrophes.”
She commented that Bachelet told those present that she felt proud to be a spokeswoman for UNIFEM for Haiti and that their struggle wasn’t only to support the actions proposed by women’s organizations, but to strengthen these organizations.
“The Feminist Solidarity Camp was present, but invisible- maintained Déjean- because Preval asked me to translate for the others, so they couldn’t speak”. At the close of the meeting, the Haitian activists from the camp met to see how the camp strategy could help strengthen the active role that UNIFEM is playing in the current context. “Sisterhood and solidarity is an important element now to continue this agenda” said Déjean.
The UNIFEM team in Haiti works with women’s NGOs to strengthen services to victims of violence in centers and camps in the city and in Jacmel. Economic security, governance issues, women’s rights, and the channeling of funds for humanitarian aid and early recovery are the principal issues on UNIFEM’s agenda.
The Feminist Solidarity Camp has been operating in Haiti and in other parts of the region and world where feminists and their organizations support women’s organizations and their communities. It was founded on February 27 during a meeting that was attended by more than 20 networks and organizations from the region.