Five Minutes With Haiti’s First Lady Martine Moïse: ‘Haiti Is Fighting to Get Up From the Floor’

Rosemary Feitelberg

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Before guests took their seats at Fashion 4 Development’s First Ladies Luncheon, Haiti’s First Lady Martine Moïse spoke about the situation in her homeland.

While she did not address specific conditions, there have been reports of residents facing fuel shortages, political unrest and chaos. Banks, schools and businesses were closed Tuesday in Port-au-Prince due to recent violent protests. An Associated Press photographer, Dieu-Nalio Chery, was shot after a senator reportedly fired a handgun outside Haiti’s Parliament building Monday. The capital’s Toussaint Louverture International Airport had to shutter its international terminal Tuesday reportedly due to electrical sparks in the departure lounge.

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Speaking in general terms through an interpreter, Moïse tried to explain the situation in Haiti for those who have never been there. “The situation seems to be crowded. But Haiti is fighting to get up from the floor. Haiti has no other choice but to get up. There are things that other people cannot do for you. It’s for you to do yourself. Right now the curse that is in Haiti, the unrest, which is corruption is for us to fight against it. You know that when you are fighting against corruption, corruption is fighting against you as well. It will be a very long fight but we are ready to do it,” she said.

During Tuesday’s F4D event, guests watched a “Haitian-style” runway show that had been curated by Moïse. Before the start of the fashion show, she noted that she represents “a segment of the 52 percent of the Haitian population — strong, resilient women who are engaged in business or manual activities to manage their homes and move the Haitian economy.”

Her child advocate efforts in Haiti include working with the National Office of Identification to make birth certificate registration available at many maternity and birth centers. The 45-year-old serves as president of the Global Fund in Haiti — CCM for the treatment and eradication of HIV and AIDS. She also aims to make Haiti a certified malaria-free country by 2020. Moïse has also invested in the modernization of Haitian Arts & Crafts to help further the local economy. She also serves as president of Fondasyon Klere Ayiti, a group dedicated to community development, women empowerment and civic education.

Asked whether it was strange to be at such a lavish event when so many people in Haiti are suffering, she said, “I am here today, because this event has been prepared since last year. Evie Evangelou has wanted to welcome many of our designers and the Haitian designers are here today, in order for the world to see another aspect of Haiti. Because the image that Haiti always projects is of people suffering and of tires burning. We want to project another image of Haiti.”

Donna Karan, a champion of Haitian artisanship, was one of the guests at the F4D event. Moïse also addressed how other designers can help bolster Haiti’s fashion community. Moïse said, “What the companies can do is, first and foremost, help the designers to find places to market their products. Also, they can provide training to them in order to help them better themselves, to meet very important and famous designers and to be able to make better work.”

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