Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Worldwide Wednesdays: In memoriam

Hello, internet!

Yeah, yeah, I know. Who's a lousy blogger? Hannah's a lousy blogger! But this week, for what it's worth, I'm going to do my job.

You can probably guess where I'm going to direct your attention this week. It's on an island in the Caribbean, it's got a profoundly spiritual and resilient population, and it just can't seem to get a break. Haiti is hurting badly right now, and before I proceed to the bulk of this week's blog, I'd like to make what is probably the ten thousandth appeal you've encountered to please help if you can at all. What you're seeing in the news these days is just a shallow representation of the hundreds of thousands of individuals who have lost either their lives or pretty much everything they had. It's something you probably wouldn't even wish on the nastiest person you know, but it just happened to most of a country's population all at once. If you've contributed towards the relief effort already, you're a star. If you haven't but you think you might want to, I urge you to look into it. Money's what they need right now, every cent helps, and there are many ways to give it. Do some quick research to decide who you think will make good use of your donation. If you don't have a credit card to donate online or by phone, you can text the Red Cross to have a donation charged to your phone bill or hunt down one of the cash donation boxes that no doubt have popped up on campus or elsewhere in your community. Trust me, you won't miss that 10 bucks. Canada and Haiti are tight, and we owe it to them to pitch in. Because we can.

I'm done preaching now, but in the theme of recognizing the far-reaching devastation of the earthquake, I want to focus this week's blog on some of the amazing women's rights defenders we lost to this disaster. Today I got a tweet (and before you ask, yes, it pains me to write "tweet") from Amnesty International informing me of the deaths of three Haitian activists. It really and truly sucks that I'm only able to profile them post-humously and following what can only be described as the untimeliest of passings, but at the same time these are people who should not go overlooked. So let's get to know the inspiring, ass-kicking individuals that they were:

Myriam Merlet was on the forefront of Haiti's women's movement, serving as the Chief of Staff of Haiti's Ministry of Women and working tirelessly to promote rights for women in Haiti. Her list of accomplishments is truly impressive. After studying in Canada in the 70s, she chose to return to Haiti and brought her good friend Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues with her. She helped to open the first women's safe-house in Port-au-Prince. She was an author who tackled subjects like the role of women in democratic politics and discrimination within the job market. She worked to combat the use of rape as a political weapon. And she was a trailblazer for women's involvement in the Haitian government which, as in countless nations worldwide, was overwhelmingly male-dominated for most of its history. When Merlet died last Tuesday in the rubble of her home, she was 53.

Click here for touching words from Eve Ensler as she remembers Merlet and what she stood for.

Magalie Marcelin was another activist with Canadian ties. After being exiled under the Duvalier regime in the 1980s, she lived in Montréal for six years before returning to Haiti and founding Kay Fanm, an incredible organization dedicated to improving the lives of women in Haiti by helping rape victims, working to increase the criminal penalties against those who commit rape, and providing shelter from violence and opportunities for education and income generation.

She left behind a daughter and a six-year-old grandson.

Anne Marie Coriolan worked alongside Myriam Merlet in the Ministry of Women and, like Marcelin, saw the importance of making rape a serious crime under Haitian law. She was the mother of two and the founder of a women's rights organization called Solidarite Fanm Ayisyen (Creole for Haitian Women's Solidarity). Her life was dedicated to the advancement of not only women, but all of Haiti.

Coriolan was also 53.

Thank you for taking the time to read about these activists. In reading up on each of them I encountered several quotations from their friends and supporters, and I think it's safe to say that the spirit of what these women stood for will survive this tragedy. There are still many who share a vision of a strong, unified Haiti where women are respected and free to bring about change. With international support, I think this goal can slowly but surely be attained.

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