Haiti: Responding to the Situation

January 20, 2010

It has been a week since we all learned of the devastating situation unfolding in Haiti, as thousands struggle to survive and await rescue and humanitarian assistance.  INCITE! organizers and human rights activists around the world are mobilizing donations, organizing volunteer relief efforts, and collecting supplies to respond to the urgent humanitarian needs of the people of Haiti.

As these important efforts are underway, we recommend that we also pause and ask the question: How can we intentionally support the long term sustainability and self determination of the Haitian people? When crises of this magnitude occur, we all understandably want to act quickly, but we must also figure out how to act thoughtfully in our efforts to develop a comprehensive, sustainable, and accountable transnational radical feminist response.

The event of an earthquake of this magnitude can be catastrophic for any place. But in Haiti, it also exacerbates decades of poverty, aid dependency, military dictatorship, unsustainable development, invasions, neoliberal structural adjustment policies, corruption, and many other intersecting forms of violence.  These political realities increase the multiple and complex forms of marginalization and social vulnerability women and their families will continue to face in the days, months, and years to come.

We have been in communication with Zeina Zaatari and Erika Rosas from Global Fund for Women.  Their contact from the Dominican Republic, Sergia Galvan, who is currently in Port-au-Prince, reported last Friday that the situation is catastrophic and, at that point, there was no infrastructure by which humanitarian aid could be distributed.

Right now, there are many people, organizations, and governmental agencies mobilized to provide immediate aid relief and rescue operations in Haiti.  However, there tends to be more readiness to donate supplies and money in the “immediate” time when things are very chaotic and before we know what the conditions are on the ground and have identified the long-term re-development needs as articulated by those most impacted.  The long-term vision is critical because, when the dust settles and the big international relief organizations have left, people’s lives will still be devastated, and the need to rebuild will still be there.

We are researching if and how we can develop an intentional political relationship with local women so we can help mobilize the INCITE! network to support just and sustainable development of a sovereign Haiti, both during the interim and the long term recovery process.

As many of us work to figure out appropriate strategies to support the people of Haiti, it’s important to note that the people most vulnerable–namely, women, LGBT folks, people with disabilities, incarcerated people, children, and elders–can experience a slower unfolding of specific crises that are consequences of the original disaster and the social conditions that preceded the disaster.

For example, women experience the most negative consequences of catastrophic events, particularly with regards to higher rates of injury and death, displacement, unemployment, increased incidents of HIV rates, sexual and domestic violence, increased poverty, and the disproportionate responsibility for caring for others.  This is especially true for women marginalized by race, sexual orientation, gender identity, class, health, ability, age, housing, and legal status.  Additionally, in times of crises and environmental emergencies, poor and marginalized women, who are least responsible for the horrific conditions in which they live, are often blamed for their poverty and become subjected to regulatory population control policies through family planning, poverty reduction, and so-called environmental protection programs.

So, given what we have learned from Hurricane Katrina and the disasters of war, occupation, neoliberal economic dominance, and neglect that continue to plague and pathologize many of our families and friends internationally, we would like to use this time to organize an effective and accountable response during this interim phase of the crisis.  Right now, we are exploring if we can activate the following plan:

  • Identify a contact with at least one specific local women’s organization/network in Haiti
  • Help mobilize the INCITE! network to organize a response and provide specific resources identified by women in Haiti
  • Work through INCITE! to sustain a productive and intentional transnational relationship with women in Haiti – this would be our long term solidarity work

We are talking with Zeina and Erika from Global Fund for Women to learn the landscape of women’s organizing in Haiti, how their local partners are doing at this point, and if/how we can work with local women directly.  We appreciate any feedback and ideas about this process, please get in touch at info@whji.org and incite.natl@gmail.com.

In the meantime, we urge INCITE! members/chapters/affiliates and the broader social justice community to:

EDUCATE YOURSELF & YOUR COMMUNITY!

  • Research Haiti’s amazing history of resistance, resiliency, and self-determination
  • Educate your community on the colonial history of deliberate impoverishment, control, debt, dependency, and neglect in Haiti
  • Educate yourself and your community on the intersections of gender, violence, and disaster vulnerabilities
  • Examine how the crises of disasters and gender-based violence are connected to the social, political, environmental, and economic issues you may work on
  • Analyze how the violence of disasters and colonial legacies (and realities) undermines the sovereignty and self-determination of a people
  • Identify patterns of how women, LGBT people, and people with disabilities are particularly impacted by disaster and conflict situations in, for example, Haiti, New Orleans, Palestine, Afghanistan, the Congo, the U.S./Mexico border, Native reservations

ORGANIZE!

  • Convene organizing teach-ins on the history of Haiti, its historical connection to New Orleans, and the role the U.S. government has played in the underdevelopment of Haiti through invasion, occupation, and neoliberal supported policies
  • Reach out to Haitian immigrants and Haitian-Americans in your community who may need support
  • Support progressive democratic and human rights movements in Haiti and campaigns calling for debt cancelation and those to eliminate foreign aid restrictions that privilege US based contractors over Haitian labor
  • Support the capacity of the Haitian government to rebuild its institutional and physical infrastructure and provide sustainable and equitable public and relief services to its own people free of neoliberal mandates
  • Ensure that gendered perspectives are mainstreamed within humanitarian programs and long term recovery, both in recognizing the leadership roles and facilities of women and other marginalized communities to guide these processes and the specific vulnerabilities of marginalized communities in times of crisis and national emergency
  • Mobilize women of color & queer/LGBT people of color in your community to develop and share organizing strategies to address crises like these both abroad and here at home
  • Share organizing models and build skills to strengthen our grassroots organizing
  • Connect online using:

o    the INCITE! facebook page: http://tiny.cc/incitefacebook
o    Stay tuned for other online tools…

DONATE!

Other groups to donate include:…

In Solidarity,

Women’s Health & Justice Initiative (WHJI), New Orleans
INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence

List of GFW Partners:

  • Fondation TOYA [TOYA Foundation], Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince, Haiti: Fondation TOYA works to raise the standard of living throughout the slum area of Cité Soleil through the empowerment of young women in the community. Members promote women’s entrepreneurship through  a micro-finance structure that facilitates access to credit for women in the informal sector. By focusing  on vulnerable young women who are unemployed and/or are heads of households,  Toya is ensuring that more Haitian women will be financially independent, have access to healthcare and in control of their destinies.
  • Association Femmes Soleil D’Haiti [Sun Women’s Association of Haiti], Cap-Haitien, Haiti: AFASDA was formed after the three-year coup in Haiti (1991-1994), because as the group states, “after the bloody coup…it was repression. No one could move. It was said that women couldn’t remain with their arms crossed. It was necessary to do something. We began with a little seed of reflection and that’s what became AFASDA.” AFASDA advances women’s rights by organizing campaigns for potable water and creating educational opportunities for street children and rural women.
  • Organisation Femmes Victimes de Solino [Organization of Women Victims of Solino] (OFVS), Solino: OFVS works with women of the Solino slum who have been victims of violence. Because of social unrest and the proliferation of armed gangs, many women are unable to earn a living.. The majority of the group’s members are single mothers, 90 percent of them affected by violence.. OFSV notes, “The majority of the women have lost all their business activities, and were forced to pay a ransom daily to the heads of gangs that took over the area so as not to be attacked again…the women have been victims of theft, burglary, and rape.”  OFVS provides counseling to violence survivors, financial aid to restart businesses, and legal aid to seek redress for the crimes committed against them.
  • Kodinasyon Solidarité Fanm Djanm Sid, KOSOFADS [Dynamic Women of the South Solidarity Network] (KOSOFADS) Les Cayes, Haiti: KOSOFADS promotes women’s economic independence, access to health care, and the eradication of domestic violence. The association brings poor women together in workshops, during which participants are encouraged to discuss women’s rights violations and devise strategies to resolve the abuse.  KOSOFADS also produces radio and television programs that focus on women’s rights issues.
  • Mouvman Peyizan Papay/Fanm MPP (Women of the Peasant Movement of Papay), Pètion Ville, Haiti: Emerging from the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP), Fanm MPP was created in 1980 to  “concentrate on understanding women’s unique development needs, advancing women’s rights and empowering women to participate in their own development.” One of the group’s current projects is  “Engaging Women in Holistic Health and Environmental Protection” project where women are taught to install family and community composting latrines, family cisterns so families for clean water for household use as well as plant fruits and vegetables for their families.

Women’s Health & Justice Initiative
P.O. BOX 51325
New Orleans, LA 70151
504-524-8626
info@whji.org
http://whji.org/

INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence
PO Box 226
Redmond, WA 98073
incite.natl@gmail.com
http://incite-national.org/

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