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Aug 19, 2011

Combating Gender-based Violence and Creating Space for Haitian Young People to Engage

One of the new Phase III earthquake recovery initiatives of Episcopal Relief & Development's partner, Centre Diocésain de Développement Intégré et de Secours (CEDDISEC, the relief and development arm of the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti), supports the mobilization of a Youth Brigade to address the high incidence of gender-based violence in Haiti’s lingering urban tent camps. Using participatory techniques such as learning dialogues, dramas and debates, 18 university students have united to promote a culture of peace that both protects and empowers. 

Through raising awareness and support for youth-identified activities, the Youth Brigade hopes to contribute to the protection of women and girls, as well as to the reduction of all forms of violence in the high-stress camp environments. At the same time, through the mobilization and support of the Youth Brigade, CEDDISEC hopes to create a space where Haitian young people can feel both empowered and engaged in the present and future of their communities.

The following testimony from 28-year-old Marie Carmel Chéry, a recent graduate of the Episcopal University in Haiti (UNEPH) Faculty of Theology and a 2011 graduating seminarian from the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Port-au-Prince, demonstrates the empowerment that is already emerging. To read more testimonies, please visit the Youth Brigade page.

When I am working with CEDDISEC’s Youth Brigade, I am touched by the strength I see in the women I meet in the camps. I am touched by their courage to deal with the difficult situations they are in, while working to make themselves and their families comfortable.

Being with the Youth Brigade has given me another view of people in Haiti. I feel like I have been inside for too long. I have been living with enough, which is a life so different from that which I encounter in the camps. Working with the Youth Brigade has given me the opportunity to learn so much. Haiti has many things to think about if it wants to help its people. I realize that in the future, as a priest, I will have a big job to minister to both the spiritual and physical needs of people.

This past spring, with support from Bishop Catherine Roskam of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, I attended the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations in New York, alongside other Episcopal and Anglican women. My participation made me recognize that I had many things inside me; it made those things wake up. 

It was during this meeting that I began to develop the dream that when I return to Haiti I can do more for women, using the information I have learned. I am grateful to Bishop Roskam for the invitation to participate in the CSW, and for the opportunity I now have to be with CEDDISEC’s Youth Brigade. I am grateful for the opportunity to use what I have learned. 

All around the world women are waking up and working together to make things better, and now I am a part of it.

To read more about the Protection & Empowerment program, a partnership of Episcopal Relief & Development and CEDDISEC, please visit our Phase III program page. The project is taking place in four tent camps in the greater Port-au-Prince area.