Ten years ago, on January 12, 2010, a catastrophic earthquake struck Haiti.
More than 100,000 people died, and millions more found themselves grappling with the aftermath of the quake, having lost family and livelihoods. The buildings that collapsed were more than just structures — they were homes, schools, hospitals that communities depended on. People were forced to live in fragile tent cities, with little access to shelter, food and basic essentials.
When people had nowhere else to turn, grassroots women-led groups were a lifeline. They did what women always do in disaster situations around the world: they mobilized. In those terrible first days, they worked to meet their communities’ most urgent needs, providing medical care and distributing humanitarian aid like food and clothing.
Through our networks of local partners, in the immediate aftermath, we put lifesaving aid into the hands of grassroots women leaders. We provided resources to rebuild and equip a clinic to treat injuries and illnesses. As women and girls living in the tent cities faced an escalating threat of sexual violence, we provided urgently-needed security measures like whistles and flashlights, supported local women’s efforts to accompany survivors to health and legal services, and documented the violations they faced for an international legal campaign demanding justice.
Our emergency response work with our local partners laid the foundation for ongoing community organizing. We have stood with women and LGBTIQ people to demand their rights during reconstruction and beyond. We supported our local partners to advocate for expanded legal protections for women and LGBTIQ people that would define marital rape as a crime for the first time in Haitian law, criminalize sexual harassment, and prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Ten years after the earthquake, many people are still daily confronted by its reminders: by the physical rubble that remains, by their tenuous livelihoods and by the failed reconstruction efforts of their government and international agencies.
As people struggle for their rights and livelihoods, for more than a year, they have taken to the streets in protests against corrupt political leadership. In retaliation, police and armed groups have targeted them with violence and killings.
As we uplift the memory of those lost in the earthquake ten years ago, we also honor the leadership of grassroots organizers in Haiti who are determined to build a new path for their country, rooted in rights, democracy, and justice. In 2020 and beyond, we will continue to offer our solidarity and support to advance that vision.