November 25th isn't just a time for turkey, thankfulness and Black Friday shopping. Since 1993, the United Nations declared November 25th and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women to recognize the urgent need for the universal application to women of the rights and principles with regard to equality, security, liberty, integrity and dignity of all human beings.
Like many countries across the world, Haiti suffers from an epidemic of domestic and sexual violence. In 2006, it was roughly estimated that nearly 35,000 women in the country's capital of Port au Prince alone were raped annually.
Jasper House Haiti deals with horrific stories of rape, abuse and sexual violence on a nearly daily basis. Stories of young girls whose history of being raped and molested began at ages as young as three and four by cousins, brothers, fathers, uncles and the like. Stories of fifteen-year-olds being coerced into sexual relationships with men thrice their senior in order to eat and attend school. It is difficult for us to wrap our heads around the amount of violence the precious women in our program have endured in their lifetime.
This is just one excerpt of the countless stories of unjust treatment and abuse of the women who now find themselves in the care and protection of Jasper House Haiti. But this is the brutal reality for thousands of women in Haiti alone.
With these staggering facts, the hope of reversing these truths seem impossible. Why has this day received international recognition? The UN has outlined some important details:
- Violence against women is a human rights violation.
- Violence against women is a consequence of discrimination against women, in law and also in practice, and of persisting inequalities between men and women.
- Violence against women impacts on, and impedes, progress in many areas, including poverty eradication, combating HIV/AIDS, and peace and security.
- Violence against women and girls is not inevitable. Prevention is possible and essential.
- Violence against women continues to be a global pandemic.
The underlying causes of this very complex and malevolent phenomenon is the result of the melange of harmful traditions, customs and cultural norms, gender stereotypes and inequality and patriarchal political, economic and social structures that manifest themselves in this most egregious violation of women’s human rights. This in turn creates and perpetuates an environment of impunity for perpetrators. Men typically indulge in violence as an exercise of their inherent power, entitlement, superiority and a sense of ownership of women by them. This is the mirror image of the sense of vulnerability, fear, shame, helplessness, resignation and dependence felt by women and girls who are victims and survivors of such violence.
So, in revelation of the overwhelming facts, what can be done about the menacing horror of violence against women that abounds worldwide?
From 25 November through 10 December the UN has issued, Human Rights Day, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence aim to raise public awareness and mobilizing people everywhere to bring about change.
Jasper House Haiti is fully committed to continuing our charge to restore, educate and empower women out of violence, exploitation and abuse. In addition to educating our women on the truths about the abuse many of them have experienced, we plan to also take the following actions over the next month:
- Visit local brothels to introduce the women who find themselves trapped in a lifestyle of prostitution and perpetual exploitation, to the realities of their situations and the hope they now have to start a new life through the work of Jasper House Haiti.
- Partner with other local Haitian based human rights organizations to create a stronger coalition for the protection and prevention of gender-based violence.
- Organize community meetings with the husbands, boyfriends and male head of households of the women in our program to educate them on gender-based violence and healthier forms of conflict resolution, and to establish a sense of accountability for the treatment of women.
- Work to develop a task force of local leaders and activist committed to identifying women trapped in abusive and exploitive situations, with solid contingency plans on how to extract women from said situations.
We believe that we can see a major decline, if not a near elimination of violence against women in our lifetime. However, it takes the support and unity of likeminded individuals who are willing to use their voice and power to stand up against such iniquitous acts.
We need your help. By raising, awareness and support of Jasper House Haiti, as well as becoming a finical partner, you are joining the fight to see justice served on behalf of women in Haiti who have experienced vehement oppression and cruelty.
Will you join us today?
Written by: Maria Atkinson - Founder/CEO Jasper House Haiti
Read more from her at her blog: Going Forth