So much of the statement I am copying and pasting below reflects much of my own internal thinking. While the immediate reaction to a disaster is to act/react, we need to be thoughtful about how this happens and really how we are doing the most good rather than just recreating patterns of colonialism/imperialism/racism and a mess of other isms that the so called “first world” has wielded against Haiti and other so called “third world” nations.
January 17, 2010
It has been nearly a week since we all learned of the devastating situation unfolding in Haiti, as thousands struggle to survive and await rescue and humanitarian assistance. INCITE! organizers and human rights activists are mobilizing donations, organizing volunteer relief efforts, and collecting supplies to respond to the urgent humanitarian needs of the people of Haiti.
As these efforts are underway, we recommend that we also pause and ask the question: How can we intentionally support the long term sustainability and self determination of the Haitian people? When crises of this magnitude occur, we all understandably want to act quickly, but we must also figure out how to act thoughtfully in our efforts to develop a comprehensive, sustainable, and accountable transnational radical feminist response.
The event of an earthquake of this magnitude is catastrophic for any place.. But in Haiti, it also exacerbates decades of poverty, aid dependency, military dictatorship, unsustainable development, invasions, neoliberal structural adjustment policies, corruption, and many other intersecting forms of violence. These political realities increase the multiple and complex forms of marginalization and social vulnerability women and their families will continue to face in the days, months, and years to come.
We have been in communication with Zeina Zaatari and Erika Rosas from Global Fund for Women. Their contact from the Dominican Republic, Sergia Galvan, who is currently in Port-au-Prince, reported on Friday that the situation is catastrophic and, at that point, there was no infrastructure by which humanitarian aid could be distributed.
Right now, there are many people, organizations, and governmental agencies mobilized to provide immediate aid relief and rescue operations in Haiti. However, there tends to be more readiness to donate supplies and money in the “immediate” time when things are very chaotic and before we know what the conditions are on the ground and have identified the long-term re-development needs as articulated by those most impacted. The long-term vision is critical because, when the dust settles and the big international relief organizations have left, people’s lives will still be devastated, and the need to rebuild will still be there.
We are researching if and how we can develop an intentional political relationship with local women so we can help mobilize the INCITE! network to support just and sustainable development of a sovereign Haiti, both during the interim and the long term recovery process.
As many of us work to figure out appropriate strategies to support the people of Haiti, it’s important to note that the people most vulnerable–namely, women, LGBT folks, people with disabilities, incarcerated people, children, and elders–can experience a slower unfolding of specific crises that are consequences of the original disaster and the social conditions that preceded the disaster.
For example, women experience the most negative consequences of catastrophic events, particularly with regards to higher rates of injury and death, displacement, unemployment, increased incidents of HIV rates, sexual and domestic violence, increased poverty, and the disproportionate responsibility for caring for others. This is especially true for women marginalized by race, sexual orientation, gender identity, class, health, ability, age, housing, and legal status. Additionally, in times of crises and environmental emergencies, poor and marginalized women, who are least responsible for the horrific conditions in which they live, are often blamed for their poverty and become subjected to regulatory population control policies through family planning, poverty reduction, and so-called environmental protection programs.
So, given what we have learned from Hurricane Katrina and the disasters of war, occupation, neoliberal economic dominance, and neglect that continue to plague and pathologize many of our families and friends internationally, we would like to use this time to organize an effective and accountable response during this interim phase of the crisis. Right now, we are exploring if we can activate the following plan:
Identify a contact with at least one specific local women’s organization/network in Haiti
Help mobilize the INCITE! network to organize a response and provide specific resources identified by women in Haiti
Work through INCITE! to sustain a productive and intentional transnational relationship with women in Haiti – this would be our long term solidarity work
We are talking with Zeina and Erika from Global Fund for Women to learn the landscape of women’s organizing in Haiti, how their local partners are doing at this point, and if/how we can work with local women directly. We appreciate any feedback and ideas about this process, please respond to the list or at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.