FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BI-PARTISAN LETTER SIGNED BY TWELVE U.S. SENATORS CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE AND URGENT ACTION TO PROTECT THE WOMEN OF HAITI
May 27, 2010—This week, as the U.S. Senate votes on a close to $60 billion USD supplemental aid bill in Washington, Digital Democracy (DD), the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), the New Media Advocacy Project (N-Map), and Partners In Health (PIH) applaud the leadership of twelve U.S. Senators in taking up the issue of protection against sexual and gender-based violence in Haiti. This coalition of legal advocates, technologists, filmmakers and healthcare providers produced a short film on the issue of sexual and gender-based violence last month and are distributing the video to raise awareness of the continued insecurity and attacks faced by Haitian women even five months after the January earthquake. The coalition of groups is working to ensure that the U.S. government continues to be a leading force in pushing for the security and inclusion of Haitian women in recovery processes, especially poor women and those still occupying some 1400 camps in and around Port Au Prince.
The short film was originally developed to raise awareness about the ongoing plight of women in camps and to ensure that the more than $10 billion USD in aid pledged by 130 countries, the World Bank, IMF, and IADB at the UN March 31st donor meetings adhere to international standards regarding protection and inclusion. UN Security Council Resolution 1325, passed unanimously in 2000, codifies women’s right to participation in decision-making and relief efforts at all levels and recognizes the disproportionate impact of crisis on women as the primary caretakers in society. As the Senate votes on this week’s supplemental aid package, it is positioned to take global leadership on responding to the growing concern over the security of Haitian women and girls.
Digital Democracy reached out to staffers in Senator Lautenberg of NJ’s staff about the need for increased attention by Senators to ensure the safety of Haitian women and girls. Weeks later, twelve U.S. Senators led by Senators Johanns and Lautenberg authored a powerful letter calling on the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development to “make the safety and wellbeing of women and girls a high priority throughout assistance efforts in Port-au-Prince and throughout the country.”
While recognizing the inherent challenges of the relief efforts, the Senators stressed the painful history of gender-based violence in Haiti, the increased vulnerability since the earthquake, and the need for specific funding for gender-based violence programs and services, including legal, physical and mental health programs, enhanced security, trainings on sexual exploitation, and coordinated efforts between international and local organizations.
“This bi-partisan letter represents a major step forward in the fight to protect women in Haiti from sexual abuse and to ensure that women play a central role in rebuilding efforts,” Abby Goldberg, Principal for Latin America/Caribbean & Gender at Digital Democracy said. “We applaud the recent attention of U.S. Senators to the issue and urge Administrator Shah to take immediate steps to implement their recommendations.”
The letter was sent to US AID Administrator Rajiv Shah on May 12, 2010 and signed by U.S. Senators Mike Johanns, Frank Lautenberg, Sam Brownback, Tim Johnson, Richard Durbin, Olympia Snowe, Dianne Feinstein, Charles Schumer, George Voinovich, Benjamin Cardin, Robert Casey, Jr., and Kirsten Gillibrand.