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Puerto Rico, Haiti: International Women's Day Dedicated to Haitian Women

Around the world, people commemorate International Women's Day on March 8th. This year, International Women's Day celebrates it 100th anniversary. In Puerto Rico, and in many countries in Latin America, the day will be dedicated to honor and remember the resilience of Haitian women, and the lives of three feminist Haitian activists who died during the catastrophic earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010: Myriam Merlet, Anne-Marie Coriolan and Magalie Marcelin.

Logo of the International Feminist Solidarity Camp in Haiti.

Logo of the International Feminist Solidarity Camp in Haiti.

In Puerto Rico, the the March 8 Coalition, which includes feminist, political, and labor union grassroots organizations, has launched the blog 8 de marzo en Puerto Rico [ES] with a wealth of information on the history of the International Women's Day, and the dozens of events planned for the commemoration. Even though there has been debate concerning the necessity of celebrating a “Women's Day”, it is true that inequality, injustice and violence against women are realities around the world.

Flyer announcing March 8 activities in Puerto Rico.

Flyer announcing March 8 activities in Puerto Rico.

In these days, bloggers in Puerto Rico have written posts on a diversity of issues concerning women. In Poder, Cuerpo y Género [ES], feminist blogger Nahomi Galindo writes about the recent death of a female inmate in a prison in Puerto Rico:

Las instituciones carcelarias son sólo un ejemplo de formas de control social. Se ha comprobado que estas no reducen la criminalidad; por el contrario, crean un círculo vicioso que empieza en el estigma y termina en la reincidencia. Sin embargo, tanto el castigo como el estigma son peores para la mujer, pues al ser confinada transgrede tanto la ley como los roles que la sociedad le ha impuesto.

Penal institutions are another example of a form of social control. It has been proved that these institutions do not reduce criminality. On the contrary, they initiate a vicious circle that begins with the stigmatization of the prisoners and ends with recividism. Nonetheless, the punishment and the stigma are worse for women, because as a prisoner she commits a double transgression: she transgresses the law and the roles society has imposed upon her.

Blogger and Law student Mariana Iriarte offers statistics of violence against women in Puerto Rico, and writes about women's resilience and strength [ES]:

En Puerto Rico los indicadores de violencia doméstica y femicidios son alarmantes. Las estadísticas más recientes son del 2008 y revelan que 17,074 mujeres han sido víctimas de violencia doméstica, esto sin tener en cuenta los casos que no se reportan a las autoridades estatales; de esas 17,074 mujeres han muerto 26. A esto debe sumarse el maltrato institucional del cual somos víctimas. No es una novedad que la población que se ha visto más afectada por los despidos del sector público han sido las mujeres, muchas de ellas madres solteras único sustento del hogar.

Ante el embate de las políticas neoliberales de la actual administración las mujeres, aún siendo las más afectadas, hemos salido a la calle a luchar por nuestros empleos, comunidades, hijos e hijas, libertad sexual y reproductiva, entre muchos otras luchas que hemos dado y seguiremos dando. Parece ser que en los albores de un nuevo milenio las mujeres seguimos y seguiremos enfrentado los retos y desafíos que se le presentaron a las mujeres en siglos pasados.

In Puerto Rico, the statistics on domestic violence and femicides are alarming. The most recent statistics are from 2008: 17,074 women were victims of domestic violence (these are only the cases that were reported), and 26 women were killed. We must add to these numbers the instances of institutional abuse to which women are subjected. It is well known that women have been most affected by the lay-offs in the government sector, and many of them are single mothers and heads of their households.

Confronted with the neoliberal policies of the current administration, women have nonetheless taken the streets to defend their jobs, communities, children, and sexual and reproductive freedom. It seems that at the threshold of a new millennium, women are still confronting many of the same challenges of previous centuries.

In Nananinas [ES], blogger Nana writes about some of the many roles women perform:

Cuando hablamos de mujeres trabajadoras no nos referimos únicamente a las que reciben remuneración por sus servicios. Cada una, desde su posición particular, realiza un trabajo necesario para la evolución de la sociedad. Las que crían a sus niños y niñas para que sean ciudadanos y ciudadanas útiles y concientes trabajan. Las que conducen autobuses trabajan. Las que cuidan a un familiar enfermo trabajan. Las que diseñan edificios trabajan. Las que imparten clases trabajan. Las que operan a personas enfermas trabajan. Todas somos trabajadoras.

When we talk about women who work, we are not only referring to the ones who receive a salary. From their specific position, every woman does some kind of work that is indispensable for society’s development. Women who raise their children so one day they may become conscious citizens are working women. Women who drive buses are working women. Women who take care of a sick relative are working women. Women who design buildings are working women. Women who give classes are working women. Women who conduct surgical procedures are working women. We are all working women.

Working women like these are integral to the rebuilding of Haiti and one blog, Haiti Vox, acknowledges that:

When I was in Haiti shortly after the quake, I met with Haitian women leaders to talk about their emergency needs and the best way for the global community of women and organizations to support them to reorganize and play a leading role in discussions and forums about Rebuilding Haiti.

The blogger, Anne-christine d'Adesky, began working towards a global grassroots solidarity initiative with the help of Haitian women in the diaspora and feminist leaders and the Poto Mitan: Rebuilding Haiti initiative was born. The organization is committed to accelerating the delivery of emergency services, resources, funding, and programs to women, girls and grassroots communities in Haiti and advocates for the implementation of a women- and community-oriented approach to relief and reconstruction that is part of the larger Rebuilding Haiti agenda.

The group has several activities planned (advocacy, reporting, networking) designed to address the post-disaster and long-term needs of Haitian women affected by the earthquake, including participation in today's International Women's Day events. Their Group and Community Forum has more details.

Janine Mendes-Franco contributed to this post.

1 comment

  • Just as an FYI, I am writing daily from Africa about food and agriculture issues for the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet blog. I’ve been focusing on highlighting women and their inovations to help alivaite hunger and poverty. Here is the link to the site [LINK], feel free to check it out. I would love for you to consider cross-posting any posts or to include a link to your site. My personal diary about the trip is called BorderJumpers at http://www.borderjumpers.org. I’m headed to Ghana now, we’ve done research and written about Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana, South Africa, Madagascar, and Mauritius. Thanks again for your coverage of International Woman’s Day, Danielle Nierenberg

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