On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of its foundation, the women’s organization, Haitian Women’s Solidarity (SOFA), is renewing its determination to fight for a more equitable society in Haïti.
Evelyne Larrieux, general coordinator of SOFA, gave a positive report of the evolution of the organization that today counts 5,000 members in several departments, with the West, the South, the Artibonite, and the Grand Anse having the most.
SOFA members are divided as follows: 80% are involved in peasant farming, 15% live in the ‘popular’ urban neighborhoods, and 5% are professional women, specified Larrieux. “SOFA wants to be an organization that is more feminist, more popular and stronger,” she added.
“SOFA works in four spheres: women’s right to health, the fight against violence against women, the promotion of the participation of women in decision-making, and the fight against the feminization of poverty,” stated Olga Benoit, person in charge of the organisation’s socio-professional branch.
“In the area of women’s health, SOFA has already established 21 welcome and support centers for women victims of violence in eight of the country’s communes, and has initiated the fight against violence specifically against women”, continued Olga Benoit.
“It is thanks to the momentum started in 1991 by SOFA that today we have a Ministry of Women’s Affairs that carries women’s demands into the highest decision-making fora in the country”, Benoit proudly stated.
In Martissant, in the south of Port-au-Prince, the organization has set up a craft industry workshop for its members offering embroidery and sewing services in the context of helping women fight against poverty and the promotion of local production.
SOFA has also established grain mills for the use of peasants in several localities, including Bois Marie, Enery and Piâtre (North department). Normally peasants must travel over several kilometers to grind their grain, said Benoit.
With regard to the socio-political situation, the work to be done is still immense, estimated Evelyne Larrieux, recalling that women are still the victims of all sorts of violence during each period of instability in Haiti.
During these last 20 years, “the most terrible moment for women was the period following the military coup of 1991”, pointed out Eveline Larrieux. “The violence against women was systematized by military officers and the paramilitary. Women, as well as young girls and teenagers, were regularly raped”, she recalled. [lf gp apr 24/02/06 21:00]
Translated from French by Charles Arthur