During a visit that concluded today, Inés Alberdi, Executive Director of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM, part of UN Women) and UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman have called for the urgent need to address gender-based violence among affected populations, and stressed the critical need to support long-term initiatives that advance women’s livelihoods as part of the rebuilding efforts. In Haiti, Ms. Alberdi and Ms. Kidman met with survivors of violence living in a temporary camp, with Haitian and UN officials, and with national non-governmental organizations working to support women’s needs in recovery efforts after the devastating earthquake.
“During this trip I saw first-hand how this humanitarian disaster is impacting women and girls. The lack of shelter and security makes them more vulnerable to violence, in particular sexual violence,” UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman said. “Yet, I have also seen the determination and resilience of women and men in Haiti to rebuild their country. Today I visited a temporary shelter for women and girls who experienced sexual violence or are at risk, where women leaders work to make sure there are medical and legal services as well as counselling and livelihood training. This needs to be done on a large scale and they need our support.”
Even before the earthquake hit, violence against women and girls was pervasive. A national census in 2006 found that one in three women in Haiti had experienced violence. Women in Haiti also carry the disproportionate burden of care for children and other family dependents. Some 45 percent of households are headed by women, many defined by stark poverty, due to lower educational levels and lack of opportunities on the formal labour market. The average annual income of women in Haiti is US$626, compared with US$1,695 for men. Meetings with women advocates during the visit highlighted women’s economic empowerment as a priority, including the immediate need to integrate women in jobs creation programmes and provide access to credit and training opportunities for sustainable livelihoods.