25 January 2010

A Great Loss for Haiti and the Global Women's Movement

CNN reported today that three women from the Haitian women's movement perished in the earthquake: Myriam Merlet, Magalie Marcelin and Anne Marie Coriolan, "founders of three of the country's most important advocacy organizations working on behalf of women and girls."

This is a tremendous loss for Haiti and for the global women's movement. One hopes that in their absence, other strong voices will rise up to continue their legacy, particularly as today's humanitarian crisis -- sure to endure well into the future -- impacts women and girls in uniquely devastating ways.

Jessica Ravitz of CNN.com writes of the void left by the deaths of Merlet, Marcelin and Coriolan as Haiti grapples with the disaster and the ongoing plight of Haitian women and girls:
With the three leaders gone, there is concern about the future of Haiti's women and girls. Even with all that's been achieved, the struggle for equality and against violence remains enormous.

The chaos that's taken over the devastated nation heightens those worries, said Taina Bien-Aimé, the executive director of Equality Now, a human rights organization dedicated to women.

Before the disaster struck last week, a survey of Haitian women and girls showed an estimated 72 percent had been raped, according to study done by Kay Fanm [a Haitian women's rights organization]. And at least 40 percent of the women surveyed were victims of domestic violence, Bien-Aimé said.

And humanitarian emergencies have been linked to increased violence and exploitation in the past, she said.

"From where we stand," Bien-Aimé wrote in an e-mail, "the most critical and urgent issue is what, if any, contingencies the relief/humanitarian agencies are putting in place not only to ensure that women have easy access to food, water and medical care, but to guarantee their protection."
Read the full article.

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