Friday, January 22, 2010

'Kembe Fen' -- Stand Firm in Solidarity with Haiti

Special edition on Haiti
January 21, 2010
In this issue
Lambi Fund of Haiti
Humanitarian Efforts Round-Up

Over a week has passed since the earthquake in Haiti shook the world. Our hearts go out to the people of Haiti and those who have gone to help in relief efforts.  We learn with sadness about the many lives lost, including key players in the Haitian women's movement. Experts are uniting behind the idea that the most effective way to help presently is to donate money. 
Many members of the National Council for Research on Women network are involved in various humanitarian efforts in Haiti. Of particular concern is the gender dimension and ensuring that women and children's specific needs are not overlooked or undervalued. 
Below is news about some efforts under way in sending both relief and funds to the people of Haiti. We are concerned with efforts to address the present dire situation, but also with those directed toward rebuilding the country's infrastructure and institutions. I hope you find this useful.

Best regards,
 Linda signature
Linda Basch, PhD
Kembe fen - Stand firm! Karen Ashmore, Executive Director Lambi Fund of Haiti 
With the recent earthquake, Haiti lost three important feminist leaders.
Myriam Merlet, 53, was until recently the chief of staff of Haiti's Ministry for Gender and the Rights of Women, established in 1995, and still served as a top adviser. She died after being trapped beneath her collapsed Port-au-Prince home.
She was a founder of Enfofamn, an organization that raises awareness about women through media, collects stories and works to honor their names. Among her efforts, she set out to get streets named after Haitian women who came before her. She was featured in the book Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of Survival and Resistance by Beverly Bell.
Magalie Marcelin, a lawyer and actress who appeared in films and on stage, established Kay Fanm, a women's rights organization that deals with domestic violence, offers services and shelter to women and makes micro loans to women. Her own daughter helped dig her body out from rubble in the aftermath of the quake.
Anne Marie Coriolan, 53, served as a top adviser to the women's rights ministry, and died when her boyfriend's home collapsed. She was the founder of Solidarite Fanm Ayisyen (Solidarity with Haitian Women, or SOFA), a leading women's advocacy and services organization.
Before the earthquake last week, a survey of Haitian women and girls showed an estimated 72 percent had been raped, according to study done by Kay Fanm. At least 40 percent of the women surveyed indicated they also were victims of domestic violence.
Protection of human rights, particularly those of women and children, is as important as providing immediate shelter, food and medical attention, says Taina Bien-Aimé, the executive director of Equality Now, a human rights organization dedicated to women. In Haiti, women often come last in terms of protection from violence.
Rarely are women included in policymaking and national leadership. Most of the elected officials are male. The highly popular Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis was removed from office last year by a largely male contingent.
When I first started working for Lambi Fund seven years ago, I saw no women presidents of the peasant groups with which we partnered. During the year 2007 I met for the first time a woman president of one of our rural grassroots partners. Her name is Anaise Saintius and she is head of the Association for the Development of Kasis (ADZK), which has a successful pig breeding enterprise that Lambi Fund helped them start.
The next year I met more and more women leaders of peasant groups. A few short years later, it is not unusual at all to see women leading community organizations in rural Haiti. I am very proud of Lambi Fund's role in helping make that happen.
The Lambi Fund of Haiti is committed to gender equity in Haiti. Practicing what we preach, the Haiti Director, US Director and Board Chair are all women. Lambi Fund sponsors two women's leadership conferences a year for peasant women. In the past two years, Lambi Fund has convened gender equity roundtables in rural Haiti with male and female participants so that men understand the reasons why power must be shared with women.
We must continue to work hard to progress with women's issues everywhere, but especially in Haiti. I urge you to support Lambi Fund of Haiti and its commitment to women. You can donate online at or send checks to the US office at PO Box 18955, Washington DC 20036. Email us at if you have questions.
As Haitians say "kenbe fem" or stand firm!
Latest Aid update from the State Department
For a round-up of US government response, visit the USAID website.
The White House - On January 12, a massive earthquake struck the nation of Haiti, causing catastrophic damage inside and around the capital city of Port-au-Prince.  President Obama has promised the people of Haiti that "you will not be forsaken, you will not be forgotten."
Interview With Andrea Mitchell of NBC
SECRETARY CLINTON: "..., the most important thing is the very long meeting that I had with President Preval and his Prime Minister and the leadership that are functioning. We went into great detail about what Haiti needed, what the government needed and how we could better coordinate. I was able to convey both our willingness to assist, but our need to have that coordination so we are going to be working very hard."
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is on-the ground in Haiti and responding to the needs of pregnant and vulnerable  women. There are as many as  63,000 pregnant women in the impacted area,  7000 of whom will give birth in the next month. Under normal circumstances, Haiti's maternal mortality ratio was 670 deaths per 100,000 live births, already a grim statistic that will only get worse in the coming days. UNFPA is providing emergency safe delivery and reproductive health kits which include supplies and medicine to treat pregnancy complications and other reproductive health issues. UNFPA is taking the lead in coordinating with other relief agencies to ensure that programs are in place to protect women from the threat of exploitation and gender-based violence, which often increase after a crisis.  They are also supplying large quantities of dignity kits, which include items such as undergarments, sanitary napkins and soap, which will be distributed to the homeless. UNFPA has been working in Haiti for over 30 years and will be intensifying its work there to help the people of Haiti recover from this disaster. For more info on UNFPA's work in Haiti, please visit 
HAITI UPDATE: Maternal Health Emergency
A week after the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti and on the heels of a serious aftershock just this morning, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is on the ground, responding to the urgent needs of women whose lives have been devastated. With hospitals and health facilities destroyed, pregnant women are at great risk for childbirth complications and death. 
The Ms. Foundation for Women has issued recommendations to help guide people's giving, emphasizing the importance of funding community-based organizations, local organizations with a social-justice lens, and grassroots organizations with a gender lens. They also provide a list of groups organizing immediate and long-term responses to Haiti.
Haiti: Absent in Life, Death and On the Evening News
By Amanda Furness 
The author, who has worked in Cite Soleil, a poor district hit hard by the earthquake, asks us to see her partner and friends in Port-au-Prince through her eyes, not as they are customarily portrayed in the media.
Click here to read the full article.
Peniel Guerrier, a Haitian Folkloric dance teacher has been greatly affected by the ongoing tragedy in Haiti. Members of his immediate family are homeless and, sadly, a few have perished.
The Ailey Extension is hosting a fundraiser this Saturday, January 23rd at the Alvin Ailey Theatre, W. 55th St & 9th St, at 7 and 9:30 PM to benefit Peniel's family in the Ailey Citigroup Theater which will feature performances by Extension teachers and students. If you are unable to attend, you are encouraged to give cash donations at the Extension Sign-In Desk on behalf of his family.
Feminist Peace Network:
The Women of Haiti - Beyond The Immediate 
 provides more information about addressing the needs of Haitian women in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Maternal Health Supplies Being Rushed to Haiti
UNITED NATIONS, New York, Jan. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is working as part of the coordinated United Nations response and with other partners to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to those who have been affected by the devastating earthquake in Haiti.
Women working with Women for Equitable Relief & Sustainable Recovery in Haiti. 
The Gender and Disaster Network urges all actors responding to the Haitian earthquake to adopt a gender-responsive approach that builds on women's capacities and resources while reflecting the gender-specific needs of women and men, boys and girls.
Haiti Earthquake 
A powerful 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, destroying thousands of buildings and homes. Over a million people have been affected by this devastating catastrophe. Habitat has worked with Haiti for over 26 years and will continue to serve the people there by helping to rebuild. Please make a tax-deductible donation today to support the survivors of the disaster.
Click the following link to assist Habitat for Humanity in their efforts in Haiti
The Women's Refugee Commission has identified 10 pressing needs that must be met during the first weeks and months of an emergency to ensure the safety and well-being of people displaced by the emergency.
Women's Health must not be forgotten in the Haiti crisis
In response to the most recent earthquake in Haiti, COHI will be responding with a team of women's health professionals to help meet the needs of the women there. As we know, women's health needs are only exacerbated during times of crisis and COHI needs to be there to help with reproductive health and various trauma needs. Haiti already suffers from the highest rate of maternal mortality in the region at 670 deaths per 100,000 live births, and we can only assume that this number will go up with the trauma and emergency needs of the women in that area.
Partners in Health have pinpointed the most critical needs towards their efforts in Haiti.  
HOPE FOR HAITI MISSION NEEDS HELP! Click on the following link to learn more or contribute towards the relief effort in Haiti
Only two short years after hurricanes devastated Haiti, on Tuesday, 12 January 2010 a 7.0 earthquake devastated the nation's capital of Port-Au-Prince. This has been the most devastating earthquake experienced on the island in the past 200 years. The current death toll is at approximately 100,000, and with thousands more injured and displaced, Haiti is now a nation in ruins.
Haiti's Women in the Aftermath of Disaster
By Taina Bien-Aime, Executive Director of Equality Now 
Violence against women is an unaddressed catastrophe in Haiti. Kay Fanm, a Haitian women's rights organization, estimates that 72% of Haitian girls surveyed have been raped and at least 40% of women are victims of domestic violence. Human trafficking and sex tourism were thriving businesses the day before the earthquake. In the aftermath of the tsunami in Asia, many feared a potential increase in human trafficking and urged respective governments to remain vigilant. With limited government capacity in Haiti, we can only shudder at the potential havoc criminal profiteers could trigger there, with probable impunity.  
Recommended Reading: Feminist Analysis of Natural Disasters
Hurricane Katrina Reveals Challenges to Human Security
"Hurricane Katrina reinforced many key lessons about the nature of environmental change; these lessons explain why rapid and incremental environmental changes are first and foremost an issue of human security, and must be framed as such..." Please refer to for the complete analysis.
FES Dean Joni Seager: Natural disasters expose gender divides "Notions about appropriate roles and jobs for men and women determined where men and women were located, literally, in relation to the waters; in many places, women were in homes in harm's way while men were at jobs in places away from the coast. This division of labor seemed particularly important in explaining survival rates: In a fast-moving storm surge, mothers who stop to gather children lose valuable time, and with children in their arms they can't swim, climb or hang on. Experience from these and other crisis zones allows us to start to explain the gendered nature of the New Orleans disaster..."
"In the United States, Hurricane Katrina displaced over one million
people and more than 1,200 died. In Guatemala, Hurricane Stan left at least 652 dead and 398 missing, wiped out crops and roads, and emtombed whole villages in mud. The massive earthquake that struck Kashmir killed at least 73,000, severely wounded as many, and left up to 3.3 million homeless, many to face the brutal Himalayan winter with no shelter at all. These disasters occurred in
vastly different places and among different populations, yet they share a common factor: during and afterwards, women and children suffered most..."
Domosh, Mona and Joni Seager. 2001. Putting women in place: Feminist geographers make sense of the world. New York: The Guilford Press.
The authors explore how gender has influenced the built environment, the locations we invest with meaning, and the ways people work, live, and travel. See in particular chapter six, "The Environment," for a discussion of the Mississippi flooding. 
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