Katie Kane, Week of May 17:
Things are busy in the BAI compound today. Haitian women and their families continue to stream into to BAI offices to speak about gender violence with Jayne Fleming and her seemingly tireless legal team, who are inspired by the bravery and persistence of Haitian women. Last night there was a meeting between members of FAVILEK and KOFAVIV and Jayne, Nicole Phillips, the human rights lawyer who is here working on the issue of forced evictions and displacement. The women of the two Haitian groups discussed the needs of women in Haiti, primarily those who are now living in camps. Their vision for the future was a broad and creative one that included requests for services and structures that women in the United States take for granted: shelter, security, education, economic opportunity. They spoke of these needs in very concrete terms. The women would like money to pay the members of the informal but effective Security Brigades that patrol the some of the camps in shifts that last through the night. Right now, in a country that suffers from 80% unemployment, these people work as volunteers. Some small, payment, the women argue, is necessary to build a stable security infrastructure in the camps.
The women spoke too of wanting to have an office for their organizations, safe houses for women under threat, a professional school that could train and retrain women in a variety of fields, a center to which rape victims could come for psychological counseling, a clinic, and other things. In short, in creative and powerful ways, Malya Villard, Erimith Delva, Marina Julien, and Yolande Bazelais, all articulated a dream for a just and socially democratic Haiti where women’s human rights would be at the center of a newly organized society. The long-term vision these women have for the development and security of Haitian women was incredible: a sign of their persistence, hope and transformative creativity.
Today a protest that has been banned by the government will take place in the face of that injunction. Various organizations, including labor rights activists, will march to protest economic and housing conditions in Haiti. There is a sense of righteous anger in the air and a fear concerning the safety of the marchers. Today’s march, will be followed by activities for Haiti’s flag day, May 18. President Préval will go to Arcahaie, the city of the flag for the official celebration of Flag Day, but people in Port-Au-Prince, throughout Haiti, and in the Haitian Diaspora will celebrate in ways that demonstrate both their concern about the chaotic and punitive present in Haiti and their investment in a better future. L’Union fait le force.
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