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Empowering women

The earthquake that hit Haiti in January 2010 destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes, forcing people to create whatever shelter they could, sometimes just a tarpaulin or tent.

For women and girls in particular, this meant a greatly increased risk of sexual violence.

Temporary shelter in HaitiChristian Aid partner MUDHA has been working with communities living in tents in Leogane, near the epicentre, to help them protect themselves against violence.

Work has included the installation of solar panels and lamps, the distribution of whistles and flashlights and the delivery of mobile phones with the numbers of the local police commissioner. MUDHA also ran an aggressive training program on human and citizens rights, empowering families and communities to exercise of those rights.
 
One camp dweller said: 'We have noticed many changes in the camps. Our rights were there, but we did not know how to exercise them.

'For example, we did not know we had rights to work, to education, to freedom of organisation. Now we have seen a big difference: not only women know where their rights begin and end, but men do too. We can file complaints and we have identified those people responsible for protecting us (the police). We know what to do after incidents of sexual assault.' 'Now we have seen a big difference: not only women know where their rights begin and end, but men do too.'

More than 80 people received psychological support in individual therapy and more than 200 in group therapy. MUDHA has also strengthened the groups and committees in the camps through lectures, workshops and meetings on various educational topics, such as citizens rights, general human rights, as well as workshops and talks on violence and sexual violence, gender equity, and responsible parenting.

A judge and 24 police in Leogane (including the commander and UN police officers) have also been trained in how to deal with cases of sexual violence against women, domestic violence and gender equity.

A cooperation agreement has been signed between the police and MUDHA for three women police to patrol camps. Police women have also been trained in how to receive and address complaints of women victims of violence.

Since the agreement was signed with local police, the women police have patrolled the camps in the vehicles between 2 and 3am, which is when most violence against women is believed to take place. This, combined with the use of mobile phones provided by MUDHA, has led to an increase in reporting of cases.

 

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Guardian blog

Follow Prospery Raymond's, Christian Aid's country manager for Haiti, blog in the Guardian

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