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"She wanted women to hold their heads high": Haiti Mourns the Deaths of Three Women's

January 21, 2010

As CNN reported yesterday, the women's rights community – and the world at large – mourn the deaths of three exceptional leaders in Haiti's women's rights movement. The nation has been plagued with gender-based violence; a survey of Haitian women and girls showed an estimated 72 percent had been raped, and at least 40 percent of the women in a separate survey were victims of domestic violence. Still, Myriam Merlet, Magalie Marcelin and Anne Marie Coriolan dared to stand up for the right of Haitian girls to grow up into strong, free and healthy women. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="312" caption="Myriam Merlet"]Myriam Merlet[/caption] Magalie Marcelin founded an organization to address domestic violence, supply shelters for women, and make micro-loans to women working in markets. The organization's name, Kay Fanm, is a creole expression meaning "women's house." Top adviser to the women's rights ministry, Anne Marie Coriolan was also the founder of Solidarite Fanm Ayisyen, an advocacy and services organization. She was also a political organizer who helped bring judicial attention to rape, which had previously been treated as nothing more than a "crime of passion." Named a "Vagina Warrior" by playwright Eve Ensler, Myriam Merlet was until recently the chief of staff of Haiti's Ministry for Gender and the Rights of Women, and continued to serve as a top adviser. She was a founder of Enfofamn, an organization that promotes gender awareness through media, and fought for powerful, public symbols of women's significance, aiming to have streets named for Haitian women. Violence against women is an unaddressed catastrophe in Haiti," wrote Taina Bien-Aimé, Progressive Women's Voices alum and director of Equality Now, in a piece for The Huffington Post. "Human trafficking and sex tourism were thriving businesses the day before the earthquake...With limited government capacity in Haiti, we can only shudder at the potential havoc criminal profiteers could trigger there, with probable impunity." Eve Ensler told CNN that concerned women in the New York area plan to gather Wednesday to organize help for Haiti. Below, watch a video (hat-tip to Salon's Tracy Clark-Flory) of Democracy Now's tribute to Merlet, featuring Ensler:
Top adviser to the women's rights ministry, Anne Marie Coriolan was also the founder of Solidarite Fanm Ayisyen (Solidarity with Haitian Women, or SOFA), an advocacy and services organization.