Port-au-Prince – Women are taking to the streets in Haiti to protest against soaring levels of violence, kidnapping, rape and torture since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and escalating political crisis.
To mark International Women’s Day (March 8), ActionAid Haiti’s partners Mouvement of Peasant in Papaye (MPP) and Organisation des Femmes Solidaires d’Haïti (OFASOH) are organising rallies in Plateau Central and Cap-Haitian to highlight the shocking spike in gender-based violence, and demand fair, free elections and an end to corruption.
It comes as Haitians continue to protest over the President’s refusal to standdown on 7 February, at the end of his five-year term in office. The constitutional crisis, deteriorating security, rising poverty and Covid-19 restrictions, have triggered an increase in criminality and violence against women and girls.
Angeline Annesteus, country director of ActionAid Haiti, says: “Women and girls in Haiti are facing a rising tide of violence, femicide and kidnappings.
“The situation for women and girls is deteriorating quickly as the political crisis escalates and economic turmoil continues as communities battle the Covid-19 pandemic. The breakdown of the courts system means that survivors are unable to access justice, and these horrifying crimes are continuing with impunity.
“Haiti’s women-led organisations and networks on the frontlines of this epidemic of sexual and gender-based violence need urgent funding for services that protect women and girls.
“ActionAid Haiti and social movements are calling for the international community to support women’s organisations and their efforts on the reestablishment of the rule of law to ensure gender justice. Only transparent elections with a high participation of women will allow for a democratic transfer of power to end the political crisis and address the GBV crisis simultaneously.”
ActionAid research shows that Covid-19 unleashed a huge spike in violence against women in girls globally, while at the same time vital women’s health and protection services are facing funding cuts and closures. GBV services must be classified as ‘essential’ by all governments to ensure they are prioritised by law enforcement, health and other responders during emergencies and crises.
In Haiti, the risks faced by women due to Covid-19 are being compounded by the political crisis. Horrifying cases that have already seen women and their communities rise up to protest against increasing sexual and gender-based violence, include the decapitation of a 22-year-old woman in Torbec, the kidnapping, torture, rape and murder of a 20-year-old woman and the kidnapping and murder of a five-year-old girl in Port-au-Prince.
School closures during lockdown saw increases in early pregnancy and sexual and gender-based violence against girls. At one school in Baumont, 40 girls, aged between 14 and 17, got pregnant during closures.
In November 2020, hundreds of women and their families took to the streets for rallies across the country organised by ActionAid’s partners to denounce violence against women and girls, corruption and social injustice.
ActionAid is working with community radio stations across the country to share information about women’s rights, how to report gender-based violence and public health messaging about preventing the spread of Covid-19. These shows have a reach of more than half a million people.
Safe spaces and WhatsApp groups are helping women support each other and share fears about GBV, abusive partners and how to find help. ActionAid is providing training and support women-led, grassroots social movements in their campaigns against political corruption and the fight against rising GBV.
As the most marginalised communities face rising hunger and poverty, ActionAid is providing cash support to 10,000 families, support to 300 women to create small businesses and agroecological training to 1,000 farmers to build their resilience to climate change and the economic crisis.
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Notes to editors:
ActionAid commissioned Haitian photographer Fabbiene Douce to capture images and stories of the women’s rights activists and support groups helping women and their communities during the Covid-19 pandemic and sexual and gender-based violence crisis:
Shella Cayo, 42 co-hosts a weekly feminist radio show about women’s rights and gender equality. Shella also uses radio to spread public health messages about Covid-19, and she has worked on distributions of items such as soap and chlorine during the pandemic. https://stories.actionaid.org/?c=56836&k=781f12a9ef
Marjorie Colo, 40, co-hosts the feminist radio show. One focus of the show is encouraging survivors of gender-based violence to report what has happened to them. During the pandemic, Marjorie has also been using her platform to raise awareness about the virus. https://stories.actionaid.org/?c=57554&k=5ff3c46b8d
Buline Blaize is an accountant and part of an ActionAid Haiti project which provides support to survivors of violence over WhatsApp. https://stories.actionaid.org/?c=56822&k=6ee8c667a1