Why Haiti? Why Women?
Haiti is a Caribbean island located on the eastern third of Hispaniola, rich with natural beauty, a unique history, and vibrant culture. While Haiti holds hidden wonders of waterfalls, white sand beaches, and glorious mountains she is also the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with a 48% illiteracy rate, and 59% living on less than $2.00 U.S. per day.* That means half of the country cannot read, and a large majority are living in extreme poverty.
Approximately 30% of children attending primary school will not make it to third grade; 60% will abandon school before sixth grade.**
A large majority of those children being girls.
Women in Haiti are incredibly strong and extremely beautiful. They are the backbone of the Haitian economy. Known as the "machann", market women create a semblance of stability in a sea of turmoil and fragility.
Despite the strength and beauty of Haitian women, they daily face a plethora of challenges as they navigate life through an overwhelmingly patriarchal society. They are often prohibited from exercising their basic rights due to predominant social beliefs that they are inferior to men as well as historical pattern of gender-based discrimination and violence.
Until 2005, rape was not legally considered a serious crime and a rapist could avoid jail by marrying his victim. Reporting a rape to police in Haiti is a difficult and convoluted process, a factor that contributes to underreporting and difficulty in obtaining accurate statistics about sexual violence. ***
Many women in Haiti, who have not been allowed the opportunity to receive a basic education, or even attend school at all, will often times be left with the detrimental choice of either an abusive relationship, or even prostitution to merely survive.
"When you have been raped, it’s as though you’re shunned from society: you shouldn’t study; you shouldn’t go to the hospital; you should simply stay in a corner. Being raped, it makes you... a person without rights, a person rejected from society and now, in the neighbourhood I live in, it’s as though I am raped every day because every day someone reminds me that I’ve been raped and that I am nothing. That I should put myself in a corner, that I shouldn’t speak, I should say nothing." - Rosa, a young Haitian woman who was raped at age 15 and again at age 20. (Amnesty International, 2008a)
Young women in Haiti have the potential to be the most active and influential players of change within their nation. They will birth the next generation, and the values and impact they have on their children have the ability to alter the course of the entire country. Hence why we must actively fight to empower and free them.****
3. "Haiti's Rape Survivors". Irinnews.org. 2011-11-02. Retrieved21 February 2013.