Saturday, January 23, 2010

Haiti's Women, After the Quake

I've been trying to think about what to write here regarding Haiti. It's been so much on my mind, and probably on yours, but this is a blog about Fertility Awareness and related issues, and there didn't seem to be much link. But then today I was reading today about three Haitian leaders who died as a result of the earthquake, and I want to draw your attention to them. I do so because these women did so much for the women of Haiti, and also because (as you may know) I believe that Fertility Awareness should encompass women's issues that result from our biological status as women, such as rape, domestic violence, and female genital mutilation. And I suspect that many of you don't know about how women suffer in the wake of a disaster, in a different and more acute way than men often do.

The names of the women who died were Magalie Marcelin, Myriam Merlet, and Anne Marie Coriolan.

Haiti's troubles were innumerable even before the earthquake, and in countries (and societies) where poverty is as endemic as it is in Haiti, women often suffer the extra burden of violence and sexual exploitation. A recent study by Kay Fanm, a women's rights organizations founded by Magalie Marcelin, found that 72% of women surveyed had been raped, and at least 40% had suffered domestic abuse. Spousal rape is not recognized as a crime in Haiti. Sexual harassment is not specifically outlawed. There are 523 maternal deaths per 100,000 births (vs. 12 in the US). This situation is only likely to worsen as a result of the quake. It's well known that women are at greater risk after major disasters. Rape and domestic violence become more common, women may not be able to gain access to emergency food aid, human/sexual trafficking may increase, and women's maternal health care needs go unmet.

This piece in the Huffington post by Taina Bien-Aime, the director of Equality Now, discusses both the remarkable women who died, as well as the precarious situation of women following this disaster:
"Haiti's Women in the Aftermath of Disaster"

You can read more about these women in this piece by Jessica Ravitz, for CNN:
"Women's Movement Mourns Death of 3 Haitian Leaders"

Here is an elegy to Myriam Merlet on the V-Day website. Myriam approached Eve Ensler in 2001, as she wanted to bring V-Day to Haiti. Together, they established a safe house for women in Port-au-Prince.
V-Day Mourns Myriam Merlet

The Haitian recovery will be going on for years. Even if you have already donated, I hope that you will consider donating, either now or in the future, to some of the organizations that will continue to fight for the rights and safety of Haitian women. Some of them are listed below. There is a Haitian saying, "When the women dish out the food, everyone eats." Help fill the pots of Haitian women so that all Haitians can be fed.

Dwa Fanm

Kay Fanm

V-Day Haiti Sorority Safe House


Madre (Madre also has a piece about how women are uniquely vulnerable after disasters, and how their model of relief puts women front & center, which you can read HERE, and there is also a nice piece about the midwives and maternal health care practitioners they helped send to Haiti, to assist the 37,000 pregnant women estimated to be among the survivors of the quake. You can read that HERE.)


Suz said...

Thank you, Ilene, for this important and resourceful post.

Steve Rawcliffe said...

As a bloke, I love the comment about everyone eating when the woman puts food on the table. When women's rights are respected, both sexes benefit.