On January 12, 2010, Haiti experienced a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 200, 000 people and devastated the lives of millions who survived.
Below, MADRE reflects on the immediate needs of Haitian women and girls after the tragedy, the progress that has been made and the reverberations of the quake that are still felt.
"All Haitians are suffering right now. But, women are often hardest hit when disaster strikes because they were at a deficit even before the catastrophe. In Haiti, and in every country, women are the poorest and often have no safety net, leaving them most exposed to violence, homelessness and hunger in the wake of disasters. Women are also overwhelmingly responsible for other vulnerable people, including infants, children, the elderly, and people who are ill or disabled." Read More.
"In the camps for displaced people in Haiti, our sister organization KOFAVIV distributes whistles to women who use them to deter potential rapists. Our sister organization also provides essential medical and legal support to rape survivors to help them in their fight for justice. The Haitian women discuss how the rape whistle helps them feel in control and secure in an environment where almost no security exists." Watch
"As post-disaster reconstruction progresses, the very women who are pulling their communities back from the brink are often excluded from decision-making. Displacement camps that are set up or managed with little attention to the needs of women and girls exacerbate the violent threats they face. In Haiti, a lack of lighting and security patrols has put women at severe risk of attack when they walk through the camps. Discriminatory attitudes among law enforcement or medical service providers have meant that women endure stigma and hostility when they seek to report their rape. Meanwhile, grassroots women's groups seeking to influence the reconstruction agenda have struggled to be heard." Read More
"While there is a dearth of reliable statistics on the prevalence of sexual exploitation or survival sex in internally displaced person (IDP) camps, or post-earthquake Haiti more generally, sexual exploitation has been identified as an issue in many humanitarian or human rights reports on women's rights since the earthquake. In UNHCR's study, for example, participants in fifteen focus groups reported that they were personally engaging in survival sex or knew others in their camp who had. The young women reported exchanging sexual acts in return for food and benefits, including coupons for aid distributions, access to direct aid distributions, cash for work programs money, or even a single meal.They claimed the primary motivation for engaging in survival sex was not only their personal survival, but in cases of mothers, the survival of their children. Many of the women noted that they would not engage in survival sex if they could find work in either the formal or informal sector." Read More
"It's important for me to fight against violence against women and girls because I am a victim myself. I have a great need, because of what happened to me to ensure that other women don't suffer the way I did. We decided to found KOFAVIV so that we could have justice and reparations, and so that we could help support women who were already victims and help prevent other women from becoming victims." Watch
"A man, who witnesses indicate was armed, stationed himself outside the KOFAVIV Center. He accosted a KOFAVIV activist on her way in, demanding that Malya Villard Appolon, the General Coordinator of KOFAVIV, appear before him. On that same day, workers at the KOFAVIV Call Center received a threatening phone call...This incident reveals a clear escalation in a pattern of intimidation and harassment against the leadership and staff of KOFAVIV, targeted as prominent voices calling for women's human rights protections in Haiti." Read More
"Four years on, despite initial media coverage of Haiti's "rape epidemic" and overtures of legal reforms, the crumbled social infrastructure has left victims with little recourse and bleak futures. Aid money has washed in and out, but now the spasm of global compassion has ebbed into a stream of predatory "development" schemes. And still, the social fabric continues to corrode under the pressure of entrenched global inequalities, both within the country and across the wealth divide between Global North and South." Read More.