Women Worldwide Will Honor the Lives of Feminist Leaders Who Died in Haiti's Earthquake

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Diana Duarte, Media Coordinator
Phone: +1 212 627 0444
Email: media@madre.org

Women Worldwide Will Honor the Lives of Feminist Leaders Who Died in Haiti's Earthquake

WASHINGTON -  Honoring the lives of feminist Haitian leaders who died in the massive
earthquake on January 12th, will be the focus of International Women’s
Day on March 8, 2010, which is also the 100th anniversary of this
annual celebration.

The main activity will take place that day
in Plaza Catherine Flon in Champ de Mars in the center of Port au
Prince, a park that symbolizes Haitian women’s participation to the war
towards independence two centuries ago.

It is being organized by
the Haitian women’s organizations locally to acknowledge and honor the
human suffering of the catastrophe in Haiti, promore feminist values
based on the human rights of all, the struggle for well being of all in
Haiti and urban planning, reaffirm feminist struggles despite the loss
of significant feminist leaders, strengthen solidarity and display a
MEMORIA which will take the form of testimonies, a mural and a slide
show.

Women’s groups around the world are asked by the Haitian
women’s movement to organize a memorial activity as part of their
celebration of International Women’s Day in their countries and
communities.

“We are calling organizations throughout the world
to join us that day to honor and mourn our loss of feminist activists
which will allow us to revive and recreate momentum of the Haitian
women’s movement to continue the important work of our fallen leaders
and the legacy they have left for those of us who continue the work,”
said Lise Marie Dejean of Solidarite Fanm Ayisyen (Solidarity with
Haitian Women, or SOFA).

She added that surviving feminists will
organize an activity in Haiti’s Catherine Flon plaza that day where
some will share what they learned from the three feminist leaders to be
honored: Myriam Merlet, Magali Marcelin, and Anne Marie Coriolan.

All
three leaders had a long standing trajectory in feminist activism
reforming a judiciary that never took rape seriously, creating
organizations and houses to protect girls and women against domestic
violence and trafficking, publishing a feminist newspaper, expanding a
documentary center and an historical archive, and struggling for the
protection of sexual and reproductive rights.

Merlet was a
feminist activist, and an advisor and former chief-of-staff for the
Haitian Minister of Women. As an outspoken activist, Merlet helped draw
international attention to the use of rape as a political weapon, and
other issues related to violence against women and girls. She was one
of the founders of Enfofanm, the first feminist information and
documentation center that also promotes women’s rights.

Magali
Marcelin, a lawyer, activist and actress, who two years ago urged women
to pack a courtroom in Haiti, where she succeeded in getting a guilty
verdict against a man who battered his wife. Marcelin was a founder of
Kay Fanm, a women's rights organization that deals with domestic
violence, offers services and shelter to women and provides
microcredit, or loans, to women working in markets.

Anne Marie
Coriolan served as a top adviser to the women's ministry. Assisted by
their efforts, the ministry developed key initiatives to raise
awareness of violence against women and created programs to help women
gain financial independence. Coriolan was also the founder of
Solidarite Fanm Ayisyen (Solidarity with Haitian Women, or SOFA), an
advocacy and services organization.

To honor these three
feminist leaders, among other killed in the quake, activities are being
planned worldwide, including a special roundtable at the United Nations
Headquarters in New York during the CSW (Commission on the Status of
Women) organized by The Feminist International Solidarity Camp, CAFRA
(Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action), the Huairou
Commission, The Association for Women’s Rights and Development (AWID),
among many other organizations and networks.

The proceedings of
the CSW which will take place during the Beijing +15** sessions, will
include a panel about women in Haiti towards a proposed resolution for
CSW to adopt regarding Haiti and Haitian women. Women’s organizations
and networks claim that the world has responded with shock and quick
action to the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January 12th. However,
emergency relief can be either a catalyst for women's leadership and
community autonomy, or it can impose unequal power structures,
militarized responses, and dependency. Several women's organizations
are already working to assure that women's voices are present now, in
emergency relief decisions, and in the rebuilding of Haiti. In
addition, women's groups are working to guarantee that women's human
rights are upheld in this crisis situation and in the months ahead.

Local
activities in other countries for March 8th have already been announced
by women’s organizations in Chile, Argentina, Honduras, Puerto Rico,
Brazil, Canada, etc.

The Feminist International Camp is also requesting a statement of solidarity from the Nobel Women’s Initiative.

The
initiative to commemorate the 8th of March by honoring Haitian
feminists emerged from a Haitian women’s meeting on January 24th in
Port au Prince, which was then adopted at a Latin American and
Caribbean meeting of the International Feminist Solidarity Camp Myriam
Merlet, Magali Marcelin, and Anne Marie Coriolan, held in the Dominican
Republic on January 26-27.

Catherine Flon is widely regarded by
Haitians as one of the heroes of the struggle to put an end slavery, as
she sew the first Haitian flag on May 18th 1803 on the last day of the
colonial congress session where leaders of the revolution at that
session "solemnly swore an oath to liberty or death on the flag which
then lead the slaves to victory and freedom. This oath is known
historically as the Oath of the Ancestors.

International Women’s
Day emerged out of women’s activities in labor movements during the
19th and early 20th centuries, established formally at the Socialists
International Meeting in Copenhagen in 1910, attended by over 100 women
from 17 countries.

International Women’s Day expanded and was
celebrated in a growing number of countries, and in 1977 the UN General
Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for
Women's Rights and International Peace. In passing this resolution, the
UN “recognized the role of women in peace efforts and development and
urged an end to discrimination and an increase of support for women’s
full and equal participation.”

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MADRE is an international women's human rights organization that works in partnership with community-based women's organizations worldwide to address issues of health and reproductive rights, economic development, education, and other human rights. MADRE provides resources, training, and support to enable our sister organizations to meet concrete needs in their communities while working to shift the balance of power to promote long-term development and social justice. Since we began in 1983, MADRE has delivered nearly 25 million dollars worth of support to community-based women's organizations in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the Balkans, and the United States. For more information about MADRE, visit our website at www.madre.org.

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