When Lisa and I arrived at the Port-au-Prince airport earlier this week, we were carrying a bag full of items donated by MADRE members through our Helping Hands program, including whistles, flashlights and basic medical supplies.
My computer is having problems uploading photos and videos, and I really wish I could show all of you blog readers what happened when the women of KOFAVIV opened the bag yesterday. They gathered in the back courtyard of the Bureau of International Advocates (French acronym, BAI), a space that grassroots Haitian women's groups have been using to organize their activities. Immediately, they began passing out the medical supplies and flashlights, and some women hung the whistles on strings around their necks.
One by one, they explained what the whistles have meant to women in the camps. Women in the camps who come under threat, facing an attacker, are able to blow their whistle three times, alerting people nearby to come to their aid.
We recently co-authored a report with IJDH and other organizations on the incidence of sexual violence in the camps and how it continues to be a constant threat against women and girls. Women's groups -- realizing all too well what the lack of security, the lack of lighting, the lack of secure housing means for protecting women's safety -- have struggled to create their own responses to these threats with little support from the Haitian government or international institutions.
But yesterday, the sun was setting, the air was cooler than it had been all day, and there was an energy in the air as they told the stories of their work. Because the reality is that, in some cases, whistles in the camps have stopped rapes. When KOFAVIV can deliver more whistles, they are working to prevent sexual violence against women, and they have seen it happen.
As soon as possible, we will share photos and videos on the blog.