Op-Ed: Hope, Haiti and an End to Gender-Based Violence


It’s appalling.

In some countries, up to 70 percent of women will experience some form of violence in their lifetimes.

But earlier this month I found reason for hope in the words of a Haitian women’s advocate—we’ll call her Marie—who I met in a rural town a few hours away from Port-au-Prince.



“I want women to see themselves as women with possibility,” she told me.

Marie—and women across the world—work every day to reclaim that sense of possibility for the millions of women and girls facing gender-based violence.

For her part, Marie works with a local organization that fights domestic child slavery—known in Haiti as the restavek system.

Tragically, child slavery isn’t the only form of gender-based violence in Haiti. High rates of sexual and domestic abuse are also pressing concerns.

Most of these domestic child slaves are girls. They are often malnourished, neglected, and abused physically, sexually or mentally.

Tragically, child slavery isn’t the only form of gender-based violence in Haiti. High rates of sexual and domestic abuse are also pressing concerns. Sometimes violence is at the hands of a guardian or parent. Sometimes it’s at the hands of a husband. Sometimes it’s at the hands of a stranger.

Marie’s organization is working to change attitudes and social norms through public education campaigns, peer meetings and more. Local organizations such as Marie’s shouldn’t go it alone in their fight to end gender-based violence.

That’s why Women Thrive Worldwide is working to amplify the voices of local partners around the globe to stop abuse, rape, so-called honor killings, dowry deaths and other gender-based violence.

U.S. international assistance has an important role to play.

American assistance goes a long way to making sure women have the resources to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. It supports organizations such as Marie’s that work to keep girls safe. It can target resources to areas like Haiti that have been affected by disaster, when violence against women often increases. And it bolsters efforts to eliminate the root causes of gender-based violence. 

We know that ending gender-based violence is key to empowering women and girls.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was a tireless advocate for women and girls. Fortunately, our new Secretary of State also has a long record as a champion for the world’s women. While in the Senate, John Kerry was a leading architect of the International Violence Against Women Act.

And now is the time to ensure that Secretary Kerry remains committed to addressing gender-based violence. 

We are all safer when girls are free to fetch water without fear of being attacked.

We are all stronger when women can speak up about rape without being stigmatized.

Please help ensure that the voices of women like Marie—and the women and girls they are fighting to save—are heard. Send your message to Secretary Kerry now.

How far are you willing to go to protect women and girls around the globe from rape, violence and fear? State your commitment in COMMENTS.

Related Stories on TakePart:

• Pakistani Schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai’s Path From Assassination to Recovery

• Congress Decides Violence Against Women Act Not Worth Renewing

• Anna Breslaw’s 600-Word Sprint: The Oxymoronic Rise of Anti-Rape Zealotry

Lara Pukatch is senior manager for global development policy at Women Thrive Worldwide. Women Thrive Worldwide | @WomenThrive