In Haiti, communities pull together to honor the International Day Against Gender-Based Violence on November 25.
On Friday, November 25th, across the Central Plateau and throughout all of Haiti, women and men and boys and girls came together to educate each other and publicly decry gender-based violence in Haiti. In Belladère and Lascahobas, hundreds of high school students gathered in large community centers to listen to PIH/Zanmi Lasante community educators and clinicians as well as their peers, community theater groups, and public officials share about types of gender-based violence (GBV), ways to prevent GBV, and resources available in case of emergency. In honor of International Day Against Gender-based Violence, this year’s slogan, supported by the Haitian Ministry of Women’s Conditions and the National Coalition against GBV, “Konbat vyolans sou fanm ak ti fi yo se zafe nou tout. Ann pote kole!” (Combating violence against women and girls is all of our jobs. Let’s work together!), encouraged everyone from all sectors of society to rally around the cause and not keep silent.
In Belladère, a community theater group, Kumbaya, performed a skit depicting a wealthy man raping his young servant girl, only to end up in jail after thinking that he could bribe his way out. Psychosocial support and a medical exam and certificate were quickly arranged for her, and justice was pursued. Hundreds of women from organized women’s groups later joined forces with the high school students, accompanied by two prominent female senators, Hugette L’Amour and Cémephise Gilles, to continue the day-long conference focused on a call for justice and education.
In Hinche, women’s groups organized a ceremony of reflection with representatives from both the public and private sectors (the Ministry of Women’s Conditions representative for the Central Plateau, local representatives, the police chief for the region, the justice system, mayor’s office, the UN, the press, and Zanmi Lasante), calling for a collective, organized effort to end gender-based violence. Ernst Origene, psychosocial team coordinator for Zanmi Lasante’s GBV work, called for the inclusion of religious leaders, schools and universities, youth groups, the press, and the private sector in the fight.
In Lascahobas, Zanmi Lasante community educators along with the Medical Director, Dr. Wakendy Mirthyl, spoke about the importance of getting to medical care within 72 hours after an act of sexual violence has occurred, to not only prevent STIs and unwanted pregnancy, but also to help facilitate the judicial process. A teenage girl shared about her experience with gender-based violence, and the fact that it can’t be combated in isolation. Having social workers, physicians, psychologists, the justice system, human rights organizations, the police, and community members all working together for prevention and treatment in a concerted effort is unprecedented and is encouraged to continue. In addition, in Lascahobas and Mirebalais, women’s groups organized rallies and marches to bring attention to violence that exists in society and call for ongoing efforts to pursue justice.
Zanmi Lasante teams focusing on women’s health, psychosocial, and prevention projects worked together to make this day a success, with funding support from the UNFPA and the U.S. Department of State. This day is just one in a series of hundreds of activities and trainings organized by Zanmi Lasante teams in the border regions with the Dominican Republic—an area where there are notoriously high rates of sexual violence—over the past months as part of a larger project to increase prevention and education efforts around issues of GBV.