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Nicole Kidman in Haiti: Put Women at the Centre of Recovery
UNIFEM Executive Director Inés Alberdi (left) and UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman in discussion with Haitian women’s rights activists Yolette Jeanty (2nd from left) and Daniele Magloire (right). (Photo: UNIFEM/Catianne Tijerina)
Urgent measures to end gender-based violence and advance women’s livelihoods are integral to rebuilding Haiti after its devastating 2010 earthquake. That was the message of Inés Alberdi, Executive Director of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM, now part of UN Women) and UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman during a recent visit there.
Ms. Alberdi and Ms. Kidman met with survivors of violence living in a temporary camp, with Haitian and UN officials, and with national non-governmental organizations working to assist women affected by the earthquake.
“I saw first-hand how this humanitarian disaster is impacting women and girls. The lack of shelter and security makes them more vulnerable to violence, in particular sexual violence,” said UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman. “Yet, I have also seen the determination and resilience of women and men in Haiti to rebuild their country.”
At a temporary shelter for women and girls who have experienced sexual violence or are at risk, she saw women leaders providing medical and legal services as well as counseling and livelihood training. “This needs to be done on a large scale and they need our support,” Kidman said.
Violence against women and girls, pervasive even before the earthquake, has been widespread ever since, with women and girls living in tents and other temporary shelters that render them vulnerable to assault. Stark poverty means that many have little recourse in protecting themselves or acquiring resources to improve their lives. The average annual income of women in Haiti is US $626, compared to US $1,695 for men. Meetings with women advocates during the visit highlighted women’s economic empowerment as a priority, including the immediate need to integrate women in job creation programmes, and provide access to credit and training opportunities.
“The women of Haiti are working hard to rebuild every aspect of their lives, but they need adequate and sustained support for their safety and security,“ said Inés Alberdi, Executive Director, UNIFEM. “There is also a critical need to address the longer term development needs, such as income opportunities, and the restoration of schools for their children.” She stressed that making women central to the planning and funding of post-disaster relief and recovery is not only a matter of women’s rights, but also of smart development and security policy.
In Port-au-Prince, Ms. Kidman and Ms. Alberdi visited the only shelter for survivors of violence in Haiti, run by the organization Kay Fanm, a UNIFEM partner. Since the building that housed the facility was destroyed during the earthquake, 13 young girls, some with their children have found temporary shelter. By now, tents have made way for plywood cabins, providing some protection from the torrential rains during the wet season. For the young women and girls, it is a safe haven: “I feel secure. I get shelter and food and can concentrate on learning,” said one of them who was kidnapped and abused a year ago and has since lived in the organization’s shelter. She is now attending school to continue her education and hopes to become a pediatrician.
"Addressing sexual and physical violence has been a central issue in the efforts of our partners in civil society and the Government to advance women's human rights in Haiti for years", said Kathy Mangones, UNIFEM Country Programme Manager in Haiti. "The work that UNIFEM is carrying out with them after the earthquake builds on these efforts, yet now, more than ever, sufficient resources and political will are needed", she added.
In another encounter during their stay in Haiti, Ms. Kidman and Ms. Alberdi met with a former schoolteacher, who is now trying to provide some educational activities in the garden of her destroyed house to the children of the surrounding temporary shelters.
To download high-resolution photographs, please visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/unifem/sets/72157624615347376/
UNIFEM has been working on programming in Haiti since 2004, with a country office established in 2007. The country office focuses on enhancing women’s economic security and rights, ending violence against women, and advancing gender justice in democratic governance. UNIFEM Haiti works closely with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Women’s Rights (MCFDF), community-based women’s organizations and civil society, including traditional religious leaders and men’s associations. In the aftermath of the devastating January earthquake and in partnership with national partners, UNIFEM has prioritized addressing key challenges, including developing strategies for service provision, addressing prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence, ensuring opportunities for women’s voices to be heard, and strengthening the integration of women’s needs in the humanitarian response.
For the latest news on the visit and UNIFEM's relief efforts, click here.
For more information on UNIFEM's country office in Haiti, click here.