Will you join me in helping Haitians, 10 million at a time? Your help is needed more than ever right now and if I tell you about Marie, I think you will understand why.
I first saw “Marie” at the entrance to the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) office in Port-au-Prince, in obvious pain, with a bandage from her elbow to her fingertips. Two nights before, her husband had intentionally ignited her sheets as she slept.
Marie had not come to BAI for sympathy—she had come to fight back. That day, BAI’s lawyers specializing in gender-based violence started working with Marie on criminal and civil cases against her husband.
Marie also had not come to BAI alone—her one-year-old daughter “Michelle” played on the floor next to her. In contrast to her mother, who looked as exhausted as one would expect, Michelle was miraculously bright-eyed and bright-smiled, well-dressed and about as cute as a human being can be (please don’t tell my 3-year-old Georgia I said that).Marie had not come to BAI for sympathy—she had come to fight back. That day, BAI’s lawyers specializing in gender-based violence started working with Marie on criminal and civil cases against her husband.
My first thought was that Marie must have used extraordinary strength and skill to insulate her daughter from her own trauma. My second thought was that we need to build a Haiti that will allow Michelle to keep the sparkle in her eye and the smile on her face. I’m sure you would agree that we need to force the justice system open for the thousands of victims of violence who do not reach the BAI office.
Marie will be invited to join BAI Women’s Saturdays, where, along with vocational training, she can connect with grassroots women activists who are changing the way that Haiti’s justice system and society treat women. This is done through organizing, media work, engagement with elected and judicial officials, and protests.
Marie’s lawyers at BAI will use her case, if she desires, as an opportunity to educate the courts and the public about the impact of gender-based violence, and to establish precedents that will make the justice system fairer for all 5 million Haitian women.
This approach is changing the unjust system that keeps Haitians vulnerable. BAI has won convictions in 10 of its last 12 rape cases; and in January’s criminal court sessions, half the scheduled cases were for rape, whereas in the past, violence against women was almost never prosecuted.
With the support of friends like you, BAI and its US affiliate, IJDH, are reducing the systemic tolerance for political corruption and violence in Haiti by prosecuting former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, and making progress towards installation of nationwide clean water and sanitation systems through our cholera accountability case.
We are keeping activists out of jail and training Haitian law graduates in human rights lawyering.
Please join all of us—Marie, Haitian grassroots activists, and their lawyers in Haiti and the U.S.—to build a more just, prosperous and stable Haiti.
Brian Concannon Jr.
P.S. Learn more about BAI’s work building justice in Haiti in this video. And please consider making your most generous year-end donation today because 10 million Haitians, like Marie, really need our help and we really need yours.