Every day is a busy day at the KOFAVIV Women’s Center here in Port-au-Prince, Haiti—and in the middle of it all is Malya.
This isn’t my first time here with Malya and KOFAVIV. Each time I return, I’m even more inspired by their work. I’ve listened to their stories, and I’ve seen firsthand the impact of what they do. Plus, I’ve had the chance to get to know Malya, one of the co-founders of KOFAVIV, now being honored as a 2012 CNN Hero.
When you’re around Malya, she radiates calm and strength. She is a steady, reassuring presence, and each day, women who have survived rape turn to her for guidance and comfort. They know that she understands what they’re going through.
Meanwhile, she helps to run the Women’s Center, where there’s always something going on: the phone is ringing, KOFAVIV’s community activists are constantly in and out, meetings and discussions are always happening.
When women who have survived rape arrive at the Women’s Center, they are immediately welcomed by a nurse and a therapist to receive emergency in-house care.
Once a survivor has reached out to KOFAVIV, Malya makes sure that she receives comprehensive care and support every step of the way. A community outreach worker will accompany her to the doctor’s office and sit with her as she talks to a lawyer to build her case. KOFAVIV will be there as moral support if the case goes to trial.
You might think that, dealing with such violence and abuse every day, the atmosphere at the Women’s Center would be somber. But that’s simply not the case. Malya makes you feel welcomed and comfortable as soon as you walk in.
Often, the women of KOFAVIV will gather to sing an uplifting song to get the energy going. Each song conveys a message of strength and empowerment for the women of Haiti. My favorite is:
Tout fanm an Ayiti, Leve kanpe pou’n avanse, Kolabore, Met tet ansanm, Kolabore, Met tet ansan, nap bay defi ak la mizè. Fanm wouj, fanm nwa, nou tout se fanm, nou tout gen menm valè, pawol nan bouch nou se yon bonm ki ka eklate la mize.
(Translation: All women of Haiti, stand up so we can move forward! Let’s collaborate and put our heads together to challenge poverty and misery. No matter the color of our skin, we’re all women with the same values, our words are powerful enough to put an end to poverty and misery.)
Malya and all the women of KOFAVIV are strong, determined and inspiring. I’m so grateful to work with them and to be part of their efforts to put an end to violence against women and girls in Haiti.
Malya has the chance to be named CNN’s 2012 Hero of the Year. If she wins the top honor, she will receive $250,000 to further KOFAVIV’s life-saving work!
Your votes can make all the difference – and you can vote up to 10 times per day, every day, from each of your email addresses and your Facebook page, until voting closes on November 28.
If each of us votes every day, there’s no reason we can’t win life-saving funds for women and girls who have suffered rape.