As the world celebrates International Women’s Day today, 8 March 2010, Haiti is without three of its most inspirational female leaders, who died in the country’s devastating earthquake.
CARE’s thoughts are with the loved ones of these influential women.
Magalie Marcelin (1962 – 2010)
A human rights attorney, Magalie Marcelin worked pro bono, and fought for the rights of women and girls in Haiti and against gender-based violence. She also served as a consultant for diverse development projects. Upon her return to Haiti from a six-year exile, she founded Kay Fanm (Creole for Women’s House) in 1987, which provided a safe haven and microloans to female victims of violence.
Magalie accompanied victims of violence to court and served as a defense attorney for them; she provided her expert testimony in trials. She drafted and submitted legal documents to Parliament for legislative consideration. Also a talented actress, story-teller, dancer, and comedian, Magalie used theatre and diverse literary works to educate the public about women’s rights. She played in several movies, including “Haiti in all our dreams” and “Anita,” in which she played a restavek (a girl in domestic servitude). Thanks to her work, numerous Haitian women learned about their human rights, which led them to seek justice against their abusers, in spite of their condition of poverty and illiteracy.
Myriam Merlet (1956 – 2010)
Myriam Merlet was a trained economist whose research focused on feminist theory. She was one of the most respected and admired leaders of the Haitian as well as the Caribbean women’s movements.
Myriam served as the head of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs from 2006 to 2008, where she remained a senior adviser until her death. She was also the national representative of the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA). Myriam collaborated closely with the commission for the regional development and gender parity analysis since its inception. Within the past two years, the Commission, with Myriam’s guidance, has been working on a research project that was aiming to serve as the backgound document to advocate for gender parity legislation in Haiti.
Anne-Marie Coriolan (1956 – 2010)
Anne Marie Coriolan, a political consultant, was the founder of Haitian Women’s Solidarity – SOFA, an organisation that supports women victims of violence. After an initial term as assistant cabinet chief in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, she served as a senior adviser.
Like Myriam Merlet, with whom she was often seen, Anne Marie contributed to changing the law in order to make rape a punishable offense. Before 2005, in Haiti, rapes were considered “crimes of passion,” although they were often used as an instrument of terror and war. She also helped protect so-called “domestic” workers, and worked toward equality of women in marriage.
At the time of her death, she was working on a commission for gender parity in Haiti.