International Women’s Day In Haiti
Maria Suarez Toro, FIRE
It is the eve of the 8th of March 2010, the centennial of International Women’s Day. The immense mass of rubble in what was the Ministry of Women’s Conditions and Rights has been completely cleared to make way for the installation of an enormous tent that shelters more than one thousand activists, waiting for the inauguration of an event to honor the women, especially those who lost their lives in the earthquake on the 12th of January almost two months ago.
A monument to these women will be unveiled tomorrow by the Minister Marjorie Michel in a tribute that commemorates the Day and at the same time renews the Ministry that has suffered the loss of General Director Myrna Narcisse Theodore and two collaborators, Mitnnel Azor and Jean Yxon Andre, whose names appear in the monument.
Invaluable advisors were lost. Myriam Merlet, Anne Marie Coriolan, Magalie Marcelin and thousands of other activist victims lay in cemeteries, in mass graves, in the areas surrounding where they died or were born or lived, and above all, they will remain present in the memory and the pain of all those present.
They are all present in the hearts of those present. They are Gina Porcena, Myriam Merlet, Magalie Marcelin, Ann Marie Coriolán, Mireille Annglade, Cléante Lydia Fernande Olga, Nadine Doucet Sassine, Valéry Tardieu Desmangles, Chantal Joachim, Marie Michelle Gaspar, Alice Solange, Therese Fernande, Madeleine Yvonne Jeanne Suzanne and so many others. At the back of the improvised platform, the names flutter in the winter breeze and gently drum up memories of their histories for the struggle for women’s rights.
The official ceremony has been converted into one artistic event that opens histories, wounds and pains of those present, in order to commence a mourning that little by little has transformed into the determination of the struggle. A singer, Mimenrose Beaubrun, expressed this for all when she came down from the platform after singing two songs and took two pieces of rubble that remained on the ground, and made music from them. The dry and syncopated sound of the pieces of lifeless rock reclaimed life from death. They lived, and our struggles will live; our historical memory and our knowledge and warmth – that they bequeathed to us.
The celebration on the day of March 8th was at Pacot street in front of the National Coordination for Haitian Women (CONAP), in the northern part of the city. The homage to the lives of three feminists who formed part of the founding group of Haitian feminism, with their activism marked by “a love for justice, a love for equality, a love for love itself”, recalled Maile, the daughter of Magalie Marcelin in the tribute.
The entire street was covered with eight immense tents through which a soft, blue light shown, illuminating the ritualized platform home to three tables with photos of Magalie, Myriam and Anne Marie, with flowers and candles on each. There were white sheets and more than 600 women use white blouses in mourning and homage. One by one, the women and organizations of CONAP, families of the victims of the earthquake and friends of the honored, circled the platform with lighted candles and words of mourning and esteem.
There were many men and journalists. The families of the mourned feminists were present and in the front line. There were ex-Ministers, directors of the municipalities of the city, functionaries from international organizations such as the Organization of American States and the United Nations, among others. The magazines from Fanm Aití from ENFOFANM and Quehaceres from CIPAF were distributed, both dedicated to the tribute. Feminist International Radio Endeavor broadcasted live the commemoration activities.
There were representative from women’s organizations from Martinique, through Dominican Republic who have crossed borders in three buses, travelling all night to their neighboring country. From Puerto Rico by air and land, from Costa Rica, from Canada, from Chile, from the World March of Women, among others. They brought messages that told of an international sustained solidarity in a context where poverty is the great tragedy that has coalesced with the earthquake, and the women receive the worst. Many women from almost all countries in the region were holding parallel events to honor and mourn with Haitian women.
“I know you are here… honoring our ancestors. I know you are here, resisting, drawing strength from the bottom of the sea. You are here as the Amazons, igniting the earth to feed the fire. You are here because you know that there is much pain… because you know that tears overflow in our hearts…”, said Sergia Galván. Adding that you are angry because women are still lying beneath the rubble, because there are thousands of lives that just want to be paid, but we know that there is shared responsibility in the development models, in poverty and inequality. You are furious because your country, that had the greatness to abolish slavery, today intends to enslave under the pretext of impracticality and a supposed failed state. But you are here also to give us strength, to make way, to support us with your wisdom, for a Haiti able to always struggle…
At night, while many returned to their countries and other rested for the intense day that was to follow, in the Feminist International Radio Endeavor and Communications Camp of the Feminist Solidarity in Haiti, two movies in French were show outdoors for women and girls on their day, accompanied by men and boys. “Kirikú y la bruja” is an African film based on the oral history transmitted for generations, in which Karaba the Witch has cast a spell that dried rivers, and the men of the village were bewitched, kidnapped or mysteriously disappeared. Kirikú scales a mountain of the witch to discover her mysteries. A movie for adults, “El Camino”, was also presented that night to an intimate audience of human rights activists, feminists, ex-Ministers, academics and leaders of camps in the area of Peggy Ville.
Ishtar Yasin, Costa Rican filmmaker who directed the movie presented, not only organized these cinematographic events in the Camp, but also filmed the Day’s activities to produce – along with FIRE – a video of the 8th of March in Haiti.
Tonight beneath the starry sky that lights the way to the tents of the camps, Magali, Myriam, Anne Marie and others will be watching over the dreams of all the women of Haiti who clamor for food, for a dignified space in the mitigation and the reconstruction. Where Haiti is refounded on the bases of equality and justice for all women and men, and an end to the violence and lack of opportunities for work, health and education for women and all.
Audio, video and photos available at www.radiofeminista.net after March 10th.