Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Ensuring Haitian Women’s Participation and Leadership in All Stages of National Relief and Reconstruction

From ReliefWeb

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A Gender Shadow Report of the 2010 Haiti PDNA
Executive Summary
Haiti at a Crossroads

On January 12, 2010 the worst earthquake in 200 years struck Haiti causing catastrophic destruction in the hemisphere’s poorest country. The quake struck near the capital of Port-au-Prince, the most densely populated part of Haiti. The death toll has been estimated at over 200,000.

In fact, Haiti was devastated even before the earthquake struck. Nearly 80 percent of Haitians live in extreme poverty, and more than half suffer from malnutrition. Unemployment is a staggering 70 percent, and tens of thousands of people die each year from preventable illnesses related to a lack of clean water. Average life expectancy at birth is only 50 years, and one in 16 women faces a lifetime chance of dying during childbirth.

These grim indicators stem from policies—many implemented at the insistence of donor countries—that have propelled poverty, social inequality and environmental destruction in Haiti. These policies have enabled the richest one percent of the population to control nearly half of the country’s wealth; and have rendered the agricultural nation of Haiti dependent on importing half of all its food—the highest percentage in the hemisphere. The women of Haiti, who are both over-represented among the poor and responsible for meeting the basic needs of the vast majority of the population, have suffered disproportionately in this policy environment.

Today, as the international community pursues recovery for Haiti, the country is at a crossroads. It could recreate the status quo ante of widespread misery or rebuild in ways that promote human rights and sustainable development, including much-needed resiliency to disaster. Realizing the latter vision requires, above all, that Haitian women’s and grassroots organizations participate effectively and play leadership roles in ongoing relief and reconstruction processes. It is these organizations that represent the majority of the population and those most deeply impacted by the disaster.

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