Today is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, a day to promote awareness and action to eradicate poverty around the world. One of the most effective ways to fight poverty and further international development is through volunteer cooperation, which is a key aspect of WUSC’s programming. For example, WUSC is one of four members of a Canadianconsortium leading a results-oriented volunteer cooperation program in Haiti that is strengthening and improving education, governance and economic development in the country. Find out more about how PCV Haiti through the dedicated work of one its long-time volunteers.
The Volunteer Cooperation Program promotes gender equality in Haiti
The Volunteer Cooperation Program (VCP) provides support to its Haitian partners and enables them to offer the best possible services to their target populations. The program is implemented by a consortium of four canadian NGOs (Center for International Studies and Cooperation, World University Service of Canada, Canadian Executive Service Organisation, Fondation Paul Gérin-Lajoie) and is made possible through the financial assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD). The role of the VCP is to recruit and field qualified Canadian advisors to Haiti, where they help local partners meet the needs they have identified in the sectors of governance, education and economic development.
After eleven years in the film industry, Lucie Bouliane wanted to see the world and invest herself in a project that would connect with her values. After looking around and considering various opportunities, she decided to become involved in international cooperation and, in 2006, she joined the Volunteer Cooperation Program–Haiti (VCP–Haiti). Even if her first assignment lasted only 4 months, Lucie spent close to 4 years of her life in Haiti. Over that time, her passionate commitment and good humour left an indelible mark on VCP–Haiti.
Throughout her various mandates, Lucie often worked work on the issue of gender equality (GE), most recently during her January to June 2014 posting. But why focus on this specific issue, one might ask? "Young people are keenly aware of the importance of gender equality. Jacmel is a modern city where people are connected to the Internet and they are therefore sensitive to these issues. But there still remains a lot of prejudice, especially in the rural areas. There, we are starting from further behind and our work to raise awareness is that much more important. Related activities initiated by our partners in the field have been the cornerstone to effectively heighten awareness during past years, but there is still a demand for assistance from those partners and from the organizations that work on issues related to the status of women. Their specific requests are aimed at improving their work and strengthening its sustained impact. These partners clearly know what they are doing. However they understand that deep and lasting change regarding the rapport between women and men can only happen over several generations and, a continued effort to raise awareness must be sustained. Our support is very much appreciated and recognized”, explains Lucie.
She was based in Jacmel, mostly, a city with a rich history which is located in the south-eastern part of Haiti. She worked with multiple partners, including the Departmental Directorate of the Ministry for the Status of Women and Women’s Rights (MCFDF), the South-Eastern Federation (FESE) of the National Confederation of Educators of Haiti (CNEH), the Vocational and Technical Training Cooperation Committee (CCFTP), the ÉFACAP de Meyer (a school in that network) and Fanm Deside. “As far as I’m concerned,” says Lucie at the very beginning of the conversation, ”the important thing was to bring up the gender equality issue with each partner according to its particular field of work, and to see how each one would integrate it throughout the broader scope of its activities. The main partner I worked with was the Departmental Directorate for the Women’s Condition. Their role in the region is essential because it is their specific mission and mandate to deal on a daily basis with gender equality issues. Since their major activities are focused on awareness and training sessions, we looked for ways to design more effective tools to ensure that women participate more and are able to influence decisions”.
However, the assistance provided by the VCP in the area of gender equality can also be broader and go well beyond this type of activity. Lucie explains that the VCP approached the issue in a variety of ways, for example as part of a Job and training Fair. “During that particular event, I was in charge of a booth that featured trades that have been traditionally closed to women. My objective was to demonstrate and argue that women can, in fact, take on trades that have usually been out of bounds for them. That is also an effective gender equality approach.”
With its ever increasing scope of activity, the VCP allowed Lucie to bring her advocacy on behalf of gender equality awareness directly to students in their school. “Working with young people was really interesting. It was a school within a network with which the VCP is already working. We couldn’t reach all the students, so we formed a group. We did a lot of awareness raising, of course, but we also organized a competition where they were required to express what violence represented for them. It all happened around texts, poems and songs ». She explains that the activity would not have been as effective in raising awareness among the young people themselves, if all the other players concerned (parents, students, teachers, school management, etc.) had not also been involved in the process. The involvement and commitment of leaders made it a success
While she remains humble regarding the overall impact of her work, Lucie nevertheless underlines that since she first arrived in Haiti in 2006, there have been many changes. She adds that to the fact the VCP works continuously with the same partners has, among other things, allowed the achievement of significant results.
Since the beginning of the VCP, several partners have set up women’s committees to promote an ever increasing presence of women in the workplace. For example, the VCP led to the creation of the Jacmel Teachers’ Association (AEJ) Women’s Committee. This committee was then strengthened so that it could, in turn, support other women’s committees and, in this manner, replicate and extend the work that had been accomplished with VCP help. There has been a succession of mixed gender awareness and training workshops with its partners that have raised recognition of the importance of gender equality. “This work has encouraged women to speak up and to try to influence on decisions being made that affect their lives”, Lucie explains, and she adds that “the people who were sensitized by this activity actually broadened their ability to think about the inequalities between women and men”. This is an important step to identifying concrete change that needs to happen to improve women’s status in their communities and their ability to influence decisions that affect their lives.
770 persons in Artibonite and the South- east of Haiti have increased awareness regarding factors that contribute to inequality between women and men
ONE STEP FORWARD SO WOMEN CAN INFLUENCE THE DECISONS THAT DIRECTLY AFFECT THEM.