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Haiti: Restoring Communications and Local Media Networks

Haiti's communication infrastructure was seriously damaged after a 7.0 earthquake devastated the Island on January 12. Since day one, Global Voices has been intensely curating and amplifying the voices of local citizen journalists and activists. It can be very empowering for people in Haiti to be able to narrate their stories in their own words, on their own terms, and in their own voices.

With this in mind, Feminist International Radio Endeavour (FIRE), an Internet grassroots feminist radio station based in Costa Rica, has joined efforts with the NGO's Colectiva Mujer y Salud (Women & Health Collective)  and Center for the Investigation on Feminist Action (CIPAF), both based in the Dominican Republic, to open the Feminist International Solidarity Camp Myriam Merlet next week on the Haitian-Dominican Border. The camp will have a Communications Center from where media activists will help coordinate local media efforts. The solidarity camp is named after Myriam Merlet,  renowned Haitian feminist activist and past Chief of Staff of the Haitian Ministry of Women, who died when her house collapsed after the earthquake.

In the following video, feminist writer Eve Ensler, remembers Merlet.

Democracy Now interviews Eve Ensler

Feminist activist María Suárez Toro, co-founder of FIRE, explains that the International Solidarity Camp will have a Communications Center that will help coordinate and restore women's communication networks:

That will include radio transmissions via Internet by FIRE (Feminist International Radio Endeavour), as well as blogs, and electronic networks organized by women’s communication networks throughout the region, such as Alianza Mediática Continental, SEM/LAC, CIMAC, Cotidiano Mujer,  Red de Mujeres de AMARC, amongst others.

The camp will also include a Resource Center that will coordinate efforts to send resources “directly to the women of Haiti” and will work with Human Rights activists from Haiti to “monitor, denounce, and demand legal action regarding violations of human rights”. There will also be a Health Center to “help deal with the grief, injuries, illnesses and traumas” caused by the earthquake.

The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) has also called on community broadcasters to support Haiti.

The earthquake has caused extensive damage to communication systems and other vital services. Among the many people directly affected are community media workers and their families.

AMARC is conducting an urgent assessment of the status of community broadcasting in the areas affected and is working to mobilize resources and technical assistance. AMARC estimates that at least 12 community radio stations are located within the zones that have suffered the most severe earthquake destruction. The full extent of the impact is not yet known.

AMARC is calling on community broadcasters to support the international relief effort by organizing airtime appeals and other activities, and to provide direct assistance to community broadcasters affected by the earthquake, including equipment donations and financial support.

Even before this catastrophic disaster, Haiti faced enormous problems of transport and communications infrastructure, access to electricity and high rates of illiteracy. Community radio has developed, since 1992, as an essential part of Haiti's communications landscape, reaching the poorest communities and enabling their participation in development.

AMARC has created a list of community radio stations in Haiti.

Map of community radios in Haiti. Republished with permission of AMARC.

Map of community radios in Haiti. Republished with permission of AMARC.

For more information about the Myriam Merlet Feminist International Solidarity Camp you can write in English to FIRE oficina{at}radiofeminista{dot}net, or in Spanish to Colectiva Mujer y Salud colec.mujer{at}codetel{dot}net{dot}do.

Please visit our special coverage page on Haiti.

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