Werleigh, Claudette


Werleigh, Claudette

Politician, development and peace campaigner – Born in Cap-Haïtien in 1946, to a well-to-do family, Werleigh trained and studied medicine in the United States and Switzerland, before returning to Haiti to take a degree course in law and economics at the State University in Port-au-Prince. She then worked for a number of non-governmental organisations in the fields of adult literacy and humanitarian relief. From 1976-1987, she was secretary-general of Caritas Haiti, an organisation created in 1975 by the Haitian Bishops’ Conference to take practical steps to support the construction of a more just and equal society. During these years, the Catholic Church was instrumental in the development and growth of the anti-Duvalier and pro-democracy movement in Haiti. In the post-Duvalier period, Werleigh helped found the League for Women’s Empowerment (Lig Pouvwa Fanm), an organisation promoting the participation of women in politics. Describing her work to bridge the gulf separating different worlds – the poor and the affluent, women and power structures, Werleigh said, “I never had to worry about money, but very young I realised that unless there were changes in the system, people like my family would always have money while others, like the peasants that were selling us their coffee and buying our goods, would always be in a poorer condition.”

From 1990 onwards, Werleigh became active in public administration and politics in Haiti, serving as Minister of Social Affairs from March-August 1990 during the interim Trouillot adminstration and then as chef de cabinet in Prime Minister René Préval’s office, from March – September 1991. Following the military coup that overthrew the Aristide/Préval government, she went into exile. From July 1992 – October 1993, she was the executive director of the Washington Office on Haiti, an advocacy and lobbying organisation. In September 1993, she was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Malval government-in-exile. She retained this post when the constitutional government was restored in October 1994. In November 1995, Werleigh was appointed Prime Minister – the first woman to hold the post in Haiti – in the post-return government of President Aristide.

From 1999-2006, Werleigh was the Conflict Transformation Programmes Director of the Life and Peace Institute in Uppsala, Sweden, leading field activities aimed at facilitating and strengthening local peace-building initiatives in war-torn societies such as in the Horn of Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Congo Brazzaville. In November 2007, she was elected secretary-general of Pax Christi International, a non-governmental Catholic peace movement working on a global scale on a wide variety of issues in the fields of human rights, security and disarmament, economic justice and ecology.

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