Monday, March 14, 2011

Dwa Fanm in Haiti

Photo courtesy of Flickr user expertinfantry under Creative Commons 3.0

Each annual production of the Vagina Monologues features a "spotlight monologue" incorporating the recipients of that year's V-Day funds. 

Last year, the grand finale was set in the Democratic Republic of Congo, teaching audicences about rape as a strategic tool of war.  This year, the money went to Haiti and the spotlight fell on Myriam Merlet.

A personal friend of Eve Ensler, Merlet was one of three influential feminists killed in the 7.0 earthquake of 2010.  Tremors shook the island on January 12, killing over 200,000 people, injuring 250,000 and leaving more than 3 million people in need of help.

There is still a severe lack of security, food, water, shelter, supplies, medical attention and psychological assistance for those who remain in Haiti.  Suffering has by no means subsided with the attention this tragedy received last year.
And women survivors have a few special requests.  They desperately need feminine hygiene products, protection from physical and sexual violence, and new feminist voices to lead their "Dwa Fanm" or women's movement-- which has lost all momentum with Merlet's absence. 
Additional voids were left by fellow activists Anne Marie Coriolan and Magalie Marcelin who were also killed in the earthquake. 
Serving on both the Ministry of Women’s Conditions and Women’s Rights and the Ministry for Gender and the Rights of Women in Haiti, Myriam Merlet also wrote the book “Walking on Fire: Haitian Women’s Stories of Survival and Resistance.”

The author was also responsible for bringing the Vagina Monologues to her home.  She was dubbed a “Vagina Warrior” by Eve Ensler, who had this to say about her close friend:

Merlet established safe houses in Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien.  She helped create the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA) Youth League, which focuses on human rights, domestic violence, and HIV/AIDS intervention. 
“She had an incredible vision of what was possible for Haitian women, and she lifted their spirits… And we had such a wonderful time.  I remember her dancing in the streets of New Orleans and just being so alive.”

Merlet also founded Enfofamn; a feminist information and documentation center.  This women's center raises awareness about women's accomplishments, uses the media to promote their achievements, and was working on a project to name streets after women at the time of Merlet's death.

In a country where rape only became a crime in 2005, the progress women made with the help of Merlet is immeasurable.

This radical feminist has left a lasting impression and will continue to inspire us all.  In the midst of Women's History Month, we honor  her, and women like her who continue to make all the difference.  Her monologue is all about the longing the women of Haiti (and the world) are left to feel with her untimely loss.
This is a piece of that monologue:
There are women
in the streets, in cars 
In camps, in ragged patchwork tents 
Women hardly clothed 
Grabbed by hungry, angry men
Filled with babies not their own.
There are women who
in order to work
must leave
their daughters,
women with blood on their legs,
terrified to take a bath.
There are women waiting to sleep
Waiting for doors and roofs and walls and 
there are women refusing to wait. 
Women calling up your memory
your name

Myriam Merlet was a revolutionary and she will never be forgotten.

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