Danticat Calls for the Inclusion of Haitian Women in International Donor Meeting

As donor nations gather in New York this week for a major conference on reconstruction in Haiti, Haitian women are demanding that their voices be heard in all phases of the deliberation.  To amplify their call, a coalition of Haitian and international women’s organizations will hold a press conference with Edwidge Danticat and Marie St. Cyr, longtime Haitian human rights advocate and member of MADRE’s Board of Directors, on March 31 (1:15 to 2:15PM) AT THE Boss Room, Floor, Church Center | 44th Street & 1st Ave, New York, NY .

The group has released the following “Open Letter to Donors of the Haiti Reconstruction”:
We are a coalition of women from diverse backgrounds working in communities in Haiti and within the international arena. As organizations committed to partnering with Haitian women to ensure their effective participation in rebuilding Haiti, we call upon donor governments to declare and adhere to internationally recognized standards of women’s human rights in forthcoming relief and reconstruction investments. Such a human-rights based approach is mandated by international law and crucial to rebuilding Haiti on a more sustainable, equitable and disaster-resilient foundation.
In recent weeks, Haitian government officials and global stakeholders representatives have worked to draft a Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) to serve as a blueprint for Haiti’s reconstruction. Although the PDNA is comprised of eight themes: governance, productive sectors, social sectors, infrastructure sectors, territorial development, environment and disaster risk reduction, economic analysis and cross-cutting sector (including gender, youth, culture, social protection, etc), only one theme (cross-cutting sector) peripherally addresses gender.
Women’s full participation and leadership in all phases of the reconstruction of Haiti (as mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and other internationally recognized standards) requires that a gender perspective be integrated into ongoing discussions and planning. The majority of Haitian women are members of grassroots communities whose voices and perspectives are equally critical to integrate into all aspects of the new National Action Plan for Haiti.
Women in Haiti are disproportionately impacted by the earthquake, both because they face gender discrimination, exposing them to higher rates of poverty and violence; and because they are responsible for meeting the needs of the most vulnerable, including infants, children, the elderly and the thousands of newly disabled people. Because disasters amplify existing social inequalities, a gender perspective is needed to avoid recovery policies that inadvertently reproduce discrimination against women. We respectfully remind donor governments of their obligation to ensure that policies are non-discriminatory in outcome as well as intent.
To overcome discrimination and to fulfill their roles as primary care-givers, Haitian women require and are legally entitled to a policy architecture that upholds the full range of their human rights, including social and economic rights. Women’s leadership and care-giving work should be recognized and supported by policy and program mandates and transparent resource commitments that enable women to play meaningful, sustained and formal roles in all stages of the relief and recovery process.
We applaud the actions of donor States to assist the people of Haiti in this time of crisis, and present the following principles to help guide governments, international organizations, and other stakeholders in providing for the protection and promotion of women’s human rights in the reconstruction plan for Haiti.
We respectfully remind donors that the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement call on governments to consult with Haitian women and ensure their participation in decisions that impact their lives. Effective consultations enable participants to actually influence outcomes and are anchored in formal partnerships with Haitian women’s groups (particularly local grassroots groups), who are empowered and resourced to take public leadership roles in the process of reconstruction.
The Donors’ Conference must ensure Haitian women’s effective participation and leadership in all stages of the National Relief and Reconstruction Plan by implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement:
Participation: Haitian women are disproportionately impacted by the crisis as well as key to their country’s recovery. Therefore a large and diverse number of Haitian women’s organizations must be consulted and included in needs and damage assessments, and in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of all aid and reconstruction programs. Financing of women’s community-based organizations is essential to ensuring that women’s rights are upheld in forthcoming policies and that displaced women are recognized as a key stakeholder group.
Non-discrimination: Given that temporary and impermanent settlements and housing arrangements are likely to persist for some time, measures to protect women from sexual violence must be implemented in all areas of Haiti, especially the capital where security concerns are high. These include: safe access to storm-resistant temporary shelters, adequate street lighting and safe spaces where women can organize around basic needs. As temporary and permanent housing plans and entitlement policies are finalized, the protection of women’s land and housing rights—through enforceable tenure security must be explicit. Reproductive health services must be guaranteed and accessible.
Capacity Development: Provide resources and facilitate technical assistance for women’s organizations to rebuild and enhance their capacity. Such programs should meet needs identified by women’s organizations themselves and be implemented by grassroots and other women’s groups when feasible. Economic recovery programs must be geared towards women who work in the informal sector and who are single heads of households, offering them a full range of training, credit and business support services.
Transparency and Accountability: Reform aid mechanisms, consistent with Haitian sovereignty, to strengthen democratic governance and build the national economy to reflect the rights and priorities of Haiti’s poor majority.
We call upon donor governments to affirm the principles outlined in this statement in the planning for Haiti’s national relief and reconstruction throughout the PDNA process and beyond.

For more information go to MADRE.

Image: One of the Pulitzer-Prize winning photos by Patrick Farrell of the Miami Herald.

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