Haiti has faced several social, economic, and political difficulties, as well as natural disasters that have been a challenge, particularly for women.
The Woman Post | Catalina Mejía Pizano
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As most of us know, Haiti, became independent from France in 1804, becoming the second country in the Americas to be free from its colonial rule. However, the country has faced several social, economic, and political difficulties, as well as natural disasters that have been a challenge, particularly for women.
The Woman Post illustrates some facts that are key to understanding the actual situation of women on the island.
Some years after Haiti celebrated 150 years of Independence, Hurricane Hazel came in 1954, killing 1,000 and destroying several crops of coffee and cocoa. Some years later, after two failed elections, Duvalier seized power and remains as president until 1971 when he died. The elections 0f 1987 are were postponed due to the assassination of two candidates and a massacre of voters. The winner in 1988 was Manigat who lost power in a military coup, six months later. Floods damaged various parts of the country in 2004 and less than a year later, Hurricane Dennis caused deaths and damage.
It is worth mentioning that in 2010 Haiti was hit by a strong earthquake and a cholera outbreak also came. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew made landfall and as if this weren’t enough, in 2021, COVID Lockdowns worsened the economic situation and food insecurity. In August 2021, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake made landfall in western Haiti. But what is the current situation of women in the country?
The lack of social protection and the vulnerability of infrastructure, have left women, girls, and other vulnerable populations, even more, exposed to losses and violence. According to UNWomen, almost 20% of the population of the island lives under the line of extreme poverty (1.23 dollars a day). Less than 1% of the country’s GDP is destined for education or health. Even the poorest people have to pay to educate their children and most of them can’t even afford food or essential care products. Before the recent earthquake, 46% of the population was facing hunger, particularly women, children, teenagers, and pregnant women.
But, how did the recent earthquake worsen the situation of women in the country? Bearing in mind that 70% of the island’s southwestern region schools, were damaged or destroyed, almost 230,000 children are at risk of abandoning their studies. As mentioned by the UN in a recent report, 54% of women and 46% of men have been through difficulties when trying to receive medical attention in the regions affected by the earthquake. Also, 18% of women and 12% of men are currently homeless, while 53% of women and 56% of men live close to a home affected by a recent natural disaster. On the other hand, according to Reliefweb, gender violence is also an actual concern, and70% of organizations in the country, agree that women and girls are more at risk.
In terms of unemployment, according to a 2015 World Bank Report, women have a 20% more chance to be unemployed than men. Several women in Haiti work in the informal sector, which is known for low-income jobs. It is worth noting that an article in the 210 MIT journal about the rebuilding of Haiti after the past earthquake, mentioned that the country should be rebuilt with women leading the Forefront of the rebuilding process. At this point, the suggestion by the MIT journal has become very important again!