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Women-Centered Disaster Relief Saves Lives: Five Years After Haiti's Quake

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 HaitiDecember 2014 

UN Human Rights Committee Confronts Vioations Against Haitian Women and LGBT PersonsNovember 2014

Fighting for Our Lives: Violence and Discrimination Against Women and LGBT Persons in HaitiOctober 2014 

Report on Failure to Investigate and Prevent Threats and Violence Against the Women Human Rights Defenders at KOFAVIVOctober 2014

Documentary: Blowing the Whistle on Sexual ViolenceApril 2014 

A Blueprint for Ending Sexual Violence After DisasterJuly 2011 

Our Bodies are Still Trembling: Haitian Women's Fight Against RapeJuly 2010

After the Quake, Depend on WomenJanuary 2010