JÉRÉMIE, HAITI – Marie Josie Joseph, 41, says that Haitian women live as if life is supposed to be hard.
“Barriers are being set up for them everywhere,” says Joseph, a nurse in a clinic in Baryadel, a town in Haiti’s Grand’Anse department.
One barrier is sexual exploitation.
“The first job I had, I was asked to do everything,” she says. “But every time it was payday, my supervisor pressured me to sleep with him. I had two kids to support. I did not have a choice.”
A woman must be willing to sleep with her supervisor if she wants to get a job in Haiti, she says.
“I know not every woman will admit that,” she says. “But women are victims in all sectors of society in Haiti.”
Joseph says she wants justice for women so that they can be free. She does not want the next generation of women to fall victim to the abuse that she has.
Women in Haiti say that gender-based abuse is ingrained in them from a young age. Men and women agree that this needs to change in order to achieve national development. Women say that their economic empowerment is crucial to this shift. One government ministry is promoting women’s rights outside the capital, with women calling for more local organizations to advocate for their equality in their communities.
Therese Pacaud, a field agent for the Ministère à la Condition Féminine et aux Droits des Femmes, the Haitian ministry that focuses on women, declined to provide statistics on how many cases of abuse or injustice it receives.
But she says that many incidents of injustice against women still exist today, especially sexual violence, physical abuse and social mistreatment.
Women say that abuse against them is the norm.
Dukens Dorismond, who works as a vendor in Baryadel, says that men think it is OK to mistreat women.
“They act as if that is their right,” she says.
She shares the story of her neighbor, Mona, whose husband hit her so severely when she was pregnant that she went into early labor.
“That didn’t bother anybody because it was her husband who did it,” Dorismond says.
Pacaud says she witnesses various types of violence against women as a field agent in Jérémie, the capital of the Grand’Anse.
“Often, we encounter cases of sexual violence, but also many instances of physical and social abuse,” she says.
Many women in Jérémie live inhumane lives, she says. They believe they are supposed to suffer, so they do not even talk about it.
This starts at a young age, she says. When growing up in their families, little girls accept that they are inferior.
“They have the same experience in the schools, and even more so in society at large,” she says. “They suffer sexual abuse, and intellectually, they are being limited.”
This continues into adulthood.
“They work as vendors, take care of the house and the children,” Pacaud says.