Prioritize Women’s Leadership in Rebuilding Haiti

by Erika Guevara Rosas, Program Director, Americas

Nearly six months after the earthquake killed 300,000, displaced more than 2 million, and destroyed much of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, reconstruction efforts have failed to ensure local women’s full participation and decision-making.

Recognizing Donors to GFW's Haiti Crisis Fund

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Since the earthquake struck, an estimated $15 billion has been mobilized from governments, international relief agencies, NGOs, and individuals for relief efforts. Yet it appears reconstruction efforts are not including local participation, which would ensure Haitian women’s leadership and strengthen the communities affected. The Clinton-Bush Fund, for instance, raised $52 million, but has spent only 10 percent. The Red Cross raised $444 million, yet has only spent 25% of it for emergency humanitarian aid.

In spite of massive resources mobilized in response to the emergency, more than 1.5 million Haitians remain homeless. Many are hungry and live in makeshift shelters.

Meanwhile, hundreds of international groups are opening offices in the country and hiring international experts to develop expensive programs and educate communities about reconstruction. There are no efforts to strengthen local capacity, like hiring locals to operate these programs. Many social movement activists are asking, “Where is the money for Haiti? Where is the money for rebuilding the country? Where is the money for Haitian’s human rights?” Yet, there are no answers.

In the heat of July, our Americas Program Team will travel to Haiti to visit grantee partners and sister organizations to learn first hand challenges Haitian women face after the devastating January earthquake. The Global Fund will convene members of our International Advisory Council from the Caribbean to strategize how to support women’s rights groups in Haiti and ensure their full participation in decision-making during the reconstruction process. The Americas Team will also attend a meeting to reflect on the experience of the Feminist International Solidarity Camp, which was established to quickly respond to the needs of Haitian women after the disaster. This trip will strengthen our efforts to promote Haitian women’s empowerment, political agency and leadership.

We remain committed to women’s long-term reconstruction needs. In June, we supported three vital women-led organizations in Haiti. One such organization is the Commission of Women Victim-to-Victim (KOFAVIV). Based in Port-au-Prince, KOFAVIV is committed to protecting the rights of formerly enslaved children (restavék) and survivors of gender-based violence. The women of this organization are survivors in every sense of the word. After losing their homes and possessions in the earthquake, they re-established their organization in one of the sprawling, makeshift camps of Port-au-Prince. There, these women are working with other women’s organizations locally and internationally to respond to the epidemic levels of rape in the aftermath of the earthquake. They are trying to prevent sexual assault, and addressing incidences when they do happen, caring for survivors, and building a movement for human rights in Haiti. Long before the earthquake, however, KOFAVIV was mobilizing rape survivors in Port-au-Prince to be part of a larger movement for social change. In the wake of this disaster, their work is even more important to the safety and well-being of women living in the camps.


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