October 20, 2014
The Engaged Citizenship project in Haiti, implemented by over 20 Haitian civil society organizations in partnership with Equitas and GARR, has led to impressive and tangible results. The Equitas team recently visited three Haitian communities (Gressier, La Victoire and Thomassique) involved in the project and observed how each community had found creative ways to solve the problem of access to safe drinking water. Using the educational toolkit developed for the project, Je m’engage, ensemble nous bâtissons (I commit, together we build), community members identified access to clean drinking water as a priority human rights issue.
These communities do not have running water and depend on various sources for their drinking water. These water sources often become a source of conflict and sites of assaults, all to the detriment of the health and good functioning of the communities.
In La Victoire, a municipality strongly affected by cholera in 2013, members of the community decided to work together to restore a water source that had been unused for 14 years. Thanks to the efforts of more than 150 people, fifty families in La Victoire now have access to safe drinking water.
“Together, we can take control of our own development, even when the state is absent,” says Paul Edex, a young leader and resident of La Victoire. This success showed the population how solidarity and teamwork can accomplish great things for the good of the whole community. Many women and young people became aware that they could take their place in society and exercise leadership. During the visit of the Equitas team, the group had already begun a new awareness campaign about cholera.
Preventing accidents and violence
In Gressier, the community pulled together to refurbish a water source whose access had become dangerous. This initiative led the population to discuss the many conflicts around water use and propose solutions for each of them. Again, the people of this community realized that they could take charge of their own development.
Because they are often located in remote locations, attacks near water sources are rampant. In Thomassique, a community of 70,000 where one has to travel up to two miles to find water, this problem is particularly acute for young girls who are often victims of sexual assault. To find a solution, 23 organizations from all sectors of the community mobilized to carry out an awareness campaign against violence against girls when they go to fetch drinking water.
Through their efforts, local, departmental and national authorities became aware of the magnitude of the problem and are now committed to finding sustainable solutions. The group held a press conference in Port-au-Prince to educate the general public. The event brought together about twenty journalists and received coverage in the national media.
“The campaign allowed us to bring several parties together and together we realized that we can act for the good of our community rather than waiting for others to come and make changes for us,” says Suzy Louis, an engaged citizen from Thomassique. Through the efforts of this group, now called Engaged Citizens of Thomassique, the Haitian population is now better informed about the problem of violence that affects the rights of many people.