A survey of Haitian women and girls conducted by women’s rights organization Kay Fanm revealed that approximately 72 percent had been raped and at least 40 percent were victims of domestic violence. Haitian lawyer and actress Magalie Marcelin founded Kay Famn, which provides legal, health, literacy and shelter services for women, in 1984. She and two other leaders of the women’s movement in Haiti – Myriam Merlet and Anne Marie Coriolan – died in the earthquake two weeks ago.
The three were instrumental in establishing the country’s first law criminalizing rape in 2005. The founder of Enfofamn, an organization that raises awareness about women through media, Merlet drew international attention to the plight of Haiti’s poor women and the use of sexual assault as a political weapon. She fled Haiti in the 1970s to study in Canada, and returned to her homeland in the 1980s.
She was remembered by her friend Eve Ensler, who remarked, “She had an incredible vision of what was possible for Haitian women, and she lifted their spirits.” Both Merlet and Coriolan held positions in the Haitian ministry for women’s affairs.
Coriolan founded advocacy organization Solidarite Fanm Ayisyen (Solidarity with Haitian Women SOFA). “She wanted women to have equal rights. She wanted women to hold their heads high,” Coriolan’s daughter Wani Thelusmon Coriolan said of her mother.
May these brave, beautiful women rest in peace.
Women are often hardest hit when disaster strikes; that is certainly he case in Haiti. “From where we stand,” said Taina Bien-Aimé, the executive director of Equality Now, “the most critical and urgent issue is what, if any, contingencies the relief/humanitarian agencies are putting in place not only to ensure that women have easy access to food, water and medical care, but to guarantee their protection.”
If you would like to contribute to an organization or group that serves women in Haiti, please consider giving to one of the following:
ActionAid will ensure that women receive appropriate emergency supplies.
Circle of Health International needs help financing their efforts caring for pregnant women, victims of sexual abuse, and those injured in the earthquake.
Dwa Fanm works to end discrimination, violence and other forms of injustice against women and girls.
MADRE’s disaster relief efforts ensure that women receive and take part in distributing aid.
UNFPA is responding to the needs of pregnant and vulnerable women in Haiti.
A list of Haitian NGOs