Press statement delivered on behalf of Michelle Bachelet after her visit to Haiti

Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Press Statement delivered on behalf of Michelle Bachelet upon completing her official visit to Haiti. Port au Prince, Haiti. 23 October 2012.

[Check against delivery]

I am honoured to return to Haiti. In February 2010, I was here only weeks after the devastating earthquake that caused so much loss and pain to your country. Today, I am very pleased to be with you as the Executive Director of UN Women.

This has been a very substantive visit that has allowed me to see first-hand the situation of women and girls almost three years after the earthquake and to hold a broad range of exchanges and dialogues with the highest levels of the Haitian Government, representatives of the civil society and our partners in the UN system.

I have just concluded a very fruitful meeting with President Martelly. We spoke about the positive advances that have taken place recently in Haiti to strengthen women's political participation and leadership in the country. One step forward is the adoption of the quota, which is a much needed measure to advance towards the critical mass of 30 per cent women in Parliament. This will enrich the legislative agenda and promote legislative measures that benefit not only women, but societies as a whole.

I was also pleased to note the high participation of women in the Haitian Cabinet, currently at close to 40 per cent. I had the opportunity to meet the Minister of Gender and Women's Rights as well as other women ministers and learn about the important work they are carrying out in a broad range of areas, including Health, Finances and Human Rights.

We also spoke about the situation of the thousands of women and girls who remain in makeshift camps after the earthquake and our concern with regard to their vulnerability to sexual violence and exploitation as well as their right to decent and safe housing.

Yesterday, shortly after my arrival at Port-au-Prince, I had the opportunity to visit the temporary site of Carradeux, where I spoke to several women who are living in this site and who shared with me their concerns, their challenges but also the advancements they have made in building a solid community under adverse circumstances. It was an honour to witness these women's resolve and resilience which should not, however, allow us to forget their basic right to decent housing as well as their right to be part of all decisions on finding solutions to their problems.

UN Women is working together with the Ministry of Gender and Women's Rights, the Haitian National Police and UN Police, and women's organizations to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement officers, so they can better provide services and support to women survivors of gender-based violence. Such violence is an important challenge throughout the country as it is in other countries throughout the region and the world.

UN Women also continues to support the work of women's organizations that provide the critical frontline services and accompaniment, which is so important to women and girls who are victims of violence.

UN Women is strengthening its presence in Haiti through the establishment of a more robust Country Office to advance action in priority areas to improve the condition of women and girls. We are working in partnership to advance women's economic empowerment, women's political participation and leadership, gender-responsive planning and budgeting, women's increased participation in peace and security processes and, as mentioned, in ending violence against women.

In line with the Haitian Government's intention to hold elections in the coming months, and UN Women priorities for 2012, I would like to take this opportunity to announce a new programme on Women's Leadership and Political Participation. This programme will be launched by UN Women and national partners, to build capacity on women's political rights, participation, and leadership and to strengthen women's engagement in public decision-making, particularly in the areas of:

  • Electoral assistance;
  • Implementation of the Constitutional Reform regarding Temporary Special Measures (namely the quota principle);
  • Strengthening a women leaders' caucus, and women's presence in political parties; and
  • Support to the women's movement advocating for women leadership and participation.

The overall goal is to increase women's leadership and participation in public decision-making in Haiti — from the national to the local level — as well as women's representation, leadership and influence in other areas of civic engagement.

Through all these measures, we are hoping to respond more effectively to the needs and challenges that Haitian women are facing.

I was very pleased to note in my meetings and exchanges with several representatives of the Haitian Government, including President Martelly and First Lady Sophia Martelly, and members of Cabinet, as well as with representatives of the civil society, an increased awareness of the importance of unleashing women's full potential to maximize the country's opportunities for inclusive and sustainable development.

Women represent 51 per cent of the Haitian population and providing them the necessary tools and possibilities to fulfill their potential is not only the just thing to do, but beyond that, it is the smart thing to do.

It is an honour to return to Haiti after two years and I wish to thank the Haitian Government and people for their warm hospitality.

L'égalité entre les sexes est le chemin et nous sommes fiers de pouvoir accompagner le Gouvernement Haïtien et les organisations de la société civile dans ce processus.

Mesi Anpil.