Remebering Haiti’s Women’s Rights Activists

I am still unable to write anything about the tragedy in Haiti without sinking into a depressive state.  A few days ago,  while writing an email to a group of colleagues about how the quake has personally touched me, I was too wrought with emotion to finish the message. I am continuing my organizing and fund raising efforts, but thought it apt to share this story from

As we contemplate what’s needed to make Haiti whole,  securing the rights of women must be a part of any plan to rebuild the earthquake-battered nation. For now, it is fitting to remember three pioneering fanm ayisyen (Haitian women) who fought for the rights of women, often in an environment hostile to women and girls.


One returned to her Haitian roots, to give voice to women, honor their stories and shape their futures.

Another urged women to pack a courtroom in Haiti, where she succeeded in getting a guilty verdict against a man who battered his wife.

A third joined the others and helped change the law to make rape, long a political weapon in Haiti, a punishable crime.

Myriam Merlet, Magalie Marcelin and Anne Marie Coriolan, founders of three of the country’s most important advocacy organizations working on behalf of women and girls, are confirmed dead — victims of last week’s 7.0 earthquake.

And their deaths have left members of the women’s movement, Haitian and otherwise, reeling.

“Words are missing for me. I lost a large chunk of my personal, political and social life,” Carolle Charles wrote in an e-mail to colleagues. The Haitian-born sociology professor at Baruch College in New York is chair of Dwa Fanm (meaning “Women’s Rights” in Creole), a Brooklyn-based advocacy group. These women “were my friends, my colleagues and my associates. I cannot envision going to Haiti without seeing them.”

Myriam Merlet was until recently the chief of staff of Haiti’s Ministry for Gender and the Rights of Women, established in 1995, and still served as a top adviser. She died after being trapped beneath her collapsed Port-au-Prince home, Charles said. She was 53.

The article goes on to site some of what these women leaders were up against:

Before the disaster struck last week, a survey of Haitian women and girls showed an estimated 72 percent had been raped, according to study done by Kay Fanm. And at least 40 percent of the women surveyed were victims of domestic violence, Bien-Aimé said.

Find the complete article here:

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