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UN Agencies Listen to Grassroots Haitian Women's Organizations

Two weeks ago, MADRE's Lisa Davis and Diana Duarte traveled to Haiti to meet with our partners from KOFAVIV. 

While there, they visited one of the camps where our partner organization KOFAVIV is working, distributed supplies to the women in the camp and coordinated the inclusion of our partner organizations at the regularly held UN meetings on gender-based violence. 

Diana, MADRE's Media Coordinator, reported on their trip on the blog, where she also posted a few of the many amazing photos she took while there. In the coming weeks, we will share more of these photos and some of the videos that she - and the KOFAVIV women - took while she was there.

Lisa, MADRE's Human Rights Advocacy Director, returned last week after helping the women from KOFAVIV and FAVILEK, another grassroots women's organization, prepare for their presentation before the Gender-Based Violence Sub-Cluster last Monday.

The UN-run Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Sub-Cluster, a coalition of multiple UN agencies, several large international NGOs and the Haitian government's Women's Ministry, meets on a weekly basis to discuss the best strategy for effectively dealing with the high incidence of rapes in the IDP camps. For several months, MADRE and our partners have been voicing our concern that grassroots Haitian women's organizations haven't been included in meetings like these, despite the critical contributions they make.

Lisa said of the Sub-Cluster meetings:

"Our strategy took a two-pronged approach. First, we wanted to ensure that the Sub-Cluster works with the women on the ground. Until recently, the meetings were held a 45-minute drive outside of Port-au-Prince - an impossible distance for anyone without a car - in a facility that required an official ID for entry. We considered it a victory when the meetings were moved into Port-au-Prince proper, very near the Bureau of International Advocates (BAI) office."

"Second, we have been working to debunk the myth that the issue of sexual violence has been solved. Most of the camps still don't have any lighting or security, and gender-based violence is still a very big problem."

As Diana reported, the first meeting that KOFAVIV and FAVILEK attended was very successful - despite the fact that the meetings are held in French and English, not Kreyol. Representatives from the women's organizations were invited back to present on the work they are doing in the camps.

Lisa attended last week's meeting with the women. Even though she has first-hand knowledge of the work that KOFAVIV is doing with women, she said that she was impressed by the breadth of the work they presented on. In addition to describing their projects with rape survivors, KOFAVIV leaders Malya Villard-Appolon and Marie Eramithe Delva also provided a detailed handout of which camps in Port-au-Prince have lighting and security and which don't (see Appendix A). 

The meeting's participants were receptive to what Malya and Eramithe had to say, and we expect positive results from the presentation and from KOFAVIV's continued presence at the Sub-Cluster meetings. This is an important step forward for having the concerns, perspectives and leadership of community-based women taken seriously by policymakers.