Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to call for attention to womens needs in Haiti

Date: Friday, February 19, 2010

The Chilean President, Michelle Bachelet will travel to Haiti on 20th February to meet with Haitian authorities and women's organizations and express her solidarity with the nation. The devastating January earthquake has left more than 200,000 people dead and about one million homeless in Haiti. In keeping with her commitment to womens rights, the Chilean President announced earlier this month that she will work closely with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in advocating for the needs of Haitian women in the coming months.

During her visit, the outgoing President will draw attention to the needs of the women devastated by the earthquake, and advocate for women's equal participation in discussions on Haiti's future. UNIFEM's work on the ground reflects that too often, natural disasters result in greater household and institutional instability and increase women's vulnerability to violence, abuse and sexual exploitation.

To get an accurate picture of women's realities in the country, Bachelet's schedule in Haiti includes meeting with Marjorie Michel, Minister of Women's Affairs, and representatives of Haitian women's organizations at the National Palace. The discussions will focus on immediate priorities: urgent humanitarian and early recovery effort; support to the Ministry and women's organizations; prevention of gender-based violence; and boosting economic security for women and their families in the post-disaster context.

At the UNIFEM facilitated meeting, women's organizations are expected to make strong recommendations on the central role of women in post-disaster reconstruction and relief efforts, including recognizing the differential needs of women and girls which must be taken into consideration for humanitarian response and early recovery. They will also stress that it is essential for women voices and perspectives to be present in decision making processes and in defining future priorities.

After a preparatory meeting with the Ministry of Women's Affairs and Women's Rights and women's advocates yesterday, Laura Pollman Alboroz,Special Advisor to the Chilean President, underlined women's leadership and the need for including their perspectives. As women are key to overcoming this disaster, their voices must be heard. President Bachelet is committed to being instrumental in supporting them.

Building on the foundation of UNIFEM programming in Haiti around gender-responsive governance, economic security and advancing women's rights, Building on the foundation of UNIFEM programming in Haiti around gender-responsive governance, economic security and advancing women's rights, currently, the UNIFEM team in Haiti after the January earthquake is working alongside NGO partners to strengthen services to victims of gender-based violence and their families in women's centres and temporary shelters in Port-au-Prince and Jacmel.