Port-au-Prince, 4 June 2012 - In Haiti, there is a saying that a house without a woman is like a body without a soul. I believe this is true. Our project with women reveals their growing desire to stand on their own feet and to change not only their own situation but that of Haiti too, to give their country a more humane and just face.
What strikes me first about the women in the camps is their suffering and isolation. But there is a sense of endurance and hope too. Pierre Caroline comes to mind; she managed to overcome her difficulty to communicate and now participates actively in our discussions, sharing opinions and constructive criticism. So much so, she was chosen by the women in the camps to present a petition to the Minister for the Status of Women and Women's Rights.
We are working hard to create a 'solidarity economy', so that the women can become protagonists in their own development. In Haiti you have to pay for everything. Without a job, there is no way to survive – no healthcare, no education, nothing. Good economic conditions are crucial: the worse off they are, the more vulnerable Haitian women become. Groups of women have been formed in four camps. The women have committed to a small weekly contribution, which guarantees they will receive their loans. Some have started street businesses, selling fruit or vegetables, pots, and other things.
One day, when we were walking in the streets of Port-au-Prince, I heard a woman calling me: "Sr Socorro, come and see the business I have set up with the loan." And Saint Luis Marie Nicole proudly showed me her bisniz, as they are called around here.
This experience will serve as a model in the other three camps. We also offer formation in women's rights, leadership, gender equality and conflict resolution. Since I am a nurse, I give community health training. Of all the workshops I have given, the one with the greatest impact was about diseases due to lack of proper housing. This awoke in the women the dream of having their own house, where they can live in dignity, leaving their tent behind. My motivation and hope is that this will become a reality.
Rosa María del Socorro López, project coordinator for women, JRS Haiti
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