Five years ago, an earthquake struck Haiti, inflicting destruction that still reverberates today. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed, and millions left homeless. Today, MADRE joins in mourning all whose lives were taken by that disaster.
It is also a day to give tribute. In those first dark days and nights after that disaster, women’s leadership was a light illuminating a path forward to healing and rebuilding.
Women stepped forward to protect the most vulnerable in their communities, such as children and the elderly in their care. As people, newly homeless, set up tent cities for shelters, women re-created a vital sense of community by setting aside gathering spaces where people could offer moral support to each other. They took action when women and girls living in the camps were targeted with sexual violence, distributing safety whistles, instituting community watches, and crucially, demanding protection from their government. Organizations like KOFAVIV, FAVILEK, and KONAMAVID took their demands for protection of women’s human rights all the way to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations. And in the years since, women’s rights activists have remained pillars of support, providing care and counseling for women and families still rebuilding their lives.
Today is also a day to reflect on lessons learned. In Haiti and in countless other places struck by disaster, women’s leadership is indispensable. Emergency responders and reconstruction policymakers must place this life-saving truth at the center of their disaster response strategies.
For more information:
Testifying for Human Rights in Haiti, December 2014
After the Quake, Depend on Women, January 2010