Safe Houses Provide Critical Support to Survivors of Violence in Haiti


Women from Haitian organizations supported by UNWomen gathered for an intensive training seminar.Photo by: Marie Arago
Reproduced from Say No: UNiTE

Women from Haitian organizations supported by UNWomen, MCFDF, KAY FANM, Fort Liberte and Port de Paix, gathered for an intensive training seminar in Croix de Bouquets. Photo by: Marie Arago

“Please come with me tomorrow as you did today with the other teenager.”

This is the cry from 13-year-old Johanne to Monique, a counselor at the Myriam Merlet Safe House of Cape Haitian, when police sent her home after she filed a complaint for rape she was a victim of the day before. Monique and Johanne had met at the police station a few hours earlier. Monique was at the time accompanying 15-year-old orphan Nadja, who was pregnant following repeated rapes of one of the men at the house she had recently been taken in.

Two years since a catastrophic 7.0 earthquake shook Haiti on 12 January 2010, support to survivors of violence, such as Johanne and Nadja, remains critical in a country that continues to re-build itself from ground up. Responding to the need, UN Women provided technical support to six safe houses across five regions in Haiti this past year.

Supported by UN Women through the programme ”Economic security, autonomy and women’s right,” the safe houses provide training to practitioners and counselors, mentoring and clinical supervision. The Ministry for Women Condition and Women’s Rights (MCFDF) have also provided support by establishing standard operating procedures and a norms manual for safe houses.

The collaboration with the Ministry is a critical component of the support mechanism of UN Women as it plays a regulatory role on services provided to women and girls in safe houses at the national level. The standard operating procedures and norms manual targeting safe houses, practitioners, counselors and managers will be published by the MCFDF and will allow certification for safe houses and quality control of services.

According to Denise Amedee, the main contributor to the manual and director of the Yvonne Hakim Rimpel safe house, by turning the safe house run by the MCFDF into a training center, the ministry will directly contribute to capacity building for future practitioners, strengthening the links and the partnership with women’s organizations.

These trainings are essential to ensure that every woman and girl, no matter where they live, have equal access to quality services, including counselling, medical services, and police and judiciary services. Equally important, for survivors of violence like Johanne, is having adequate support system to recover and move forward.

Background: Network of Safe Houses Supported by UN Women

As part of the “Economic security, autonomy and women’s rights,” six safe houses receive technical support from UN Women. Three of them are run by the Association Femmes Soleil d’Haiti (AFASDA) and provide services in the North, North West and North East regions of Haiti. AFASDA has received support from UN Women for the development and functioning of the house in Cape Town. The organization V-Day, founded by Eve Ensler, actively supports operations of those in Port-de-Paix and Fort Liberté.

Both houses of the West region, closed since the earthquake of January 2010 and run by the Ministry and a feminist organization Kay Fanm, will soon be reopened. Zonta International is helping to rebuild the Kay Fanm Safe House. The construction of the sixth house of the network in the South East region will soon be completed. The organization Fanm Deside will ensure its functioning and management.