Meeting With Our Partner in Haiti

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

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

Meeting With Our Partner in Haiti

WASHINGTON - Lisa Davis, an attorney working with MADRE, traveled to Haiti last
week as part of a delegation of human rights attorneys with the Lawyers' Earthquake Response Network (LERN), a project of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH),
and met with MADRE's local partner KOFAVIV. Lisa had the opportunity to
speak with the organization’s members and to see the organization in
action when she visited one of the camps in Port-au-Prince where
KOFAVIV is working. She shared this update below.

KOFAVIV
is one of the more critical on-the-ground organizations having a real
impact in Haiti. The organization is comprised of and led by women who
are themselves living in the camps for people displaced by the
earthquake. They are reaching out to other women every day to provide
them with the resources they need to survive and crucial social and
psychological support to make it through this terrible time. In
particular, KOFAVIV provides support to women who have been raped.

Meeting Immediate Needs

When
I was in Haiti, I was able to pass along contributions from MADRE
members to our partner organization, KOFAVIV. The women from KOFAVIV
worked quickly to distribute this support to women in the camps in the
form of much-needed supplies, buying directly from local vendors (many
of them also earthquake survivors who are just getting back on their
feet with very small businesses). KOFAVIV gave 1,100 women clean water,
pots and pans for cooking, buckets for washing clothes, soap and
tampons.

You can’t overestimate the importance of these
day-to-day items: How do you feed your children without a pot to cook
in? How do you maintain your dignity without soap? There is a need for
systemic change for us to address broader human rights issues in Haiti
with our partners, and this long-term work is strengthened when we can
help meet people’s pressing immediate needs.

Creating Community Space

The
camps are so crowded that there's barely room to walk between the
tents. There's no space for people to gather or meet, which breeds a
feeling of isolation and despair and prevents people from organizing.
KOFAVIV recognized this problem and set up an open-air tent where women
can come together: to talk, to support each other and to begin to
rebuild the social networks that are so crucial to recovering from the
earthquake.

Providing Security

The camps are dangerous
places for women and girls: they are terribly overcrowded, without safe
housing, lighting or police. Worse, the social networks that normally
provide protection have been destroyed. Women are raped in their tents,
on the way to the bathroom and even in the bathroom because there's no
way to lock a door.

In response, KOFAVIV organized a community
watch system and trained a group of men to escort women in the camps at
night. They distributed whistles, flashlights and cell phones to women
and are teaching some basic techniques to help prevent rape.

KOFAVIV
has a long history of providing rape survivors with direct support and
services, and they are continuing this work in the camps. They have
over 1,000 members in the camps, and women know that they can turn to
KOFAVIV if they've been raped. The women of KOFAVIV will bring them to
the hospital and the police station, they provide psychological and
social support through a powerful model of peer support groups and they
are now working with MADRE and LERN to seek justice for rape survivors.
Women and girls with KOFAVIV provided testimony that local and
international human rights attorneys will be able to use to address
this ongoing abuse and impunity.

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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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