A leader in the bourgeoning Haitian LGBTI movement, Kouraj that has successfully been able to mobilize existing LGBTI groups, foster the emergence of new groups and develop strategic alliances with civil society and state institutions. Kouraj quickly became a place of community and family for Hétéra, who felt a sense of belonging within the organization, and the work of human rights education and promoting LGBTI rights has become her purpose. Hétéra is also a gender specialist, a psychosocial coach and an educator. Her activism is inspired by the former director of Kouraj, Charlot Jeudy, and his words: “L’ignorance mène à la peur, la peur mène à la haine, et la haine conduit à la violence” ”Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hatred, and hatred leads to violence.” This statement informs all of Hétéra’s work toward the realization of LGBTI rights.
Unfortunately, Haiti’s LGBTI community continues to face various forms of discrimination and violence that have only gotten worse during the pandemic – as some Haitians blame the country’s LGBTI population for causing COVID-19. Hétéra explains how discrimination and violence against the LGBTI community isn’t always so explicit – it often manifests in covert and complex ways, which makes combatting these issues challenging. Hétéra explains that LGBTI individuals often face daily economic and institutional violence. For example, children whose parents are not supportive of their sexual orientation can cease to financially support them, depriving them of access to education, housing, and other basic needs. LGBTI individuals also experience institutional violence stemming from the fact that the institutions that are responsible for the protection of human rights can also be the most chronic perpetrators of human rights abuses against vulnerable communities. For example, there have been instances of police officers who are supposed to help transgender individuals facing harassment refusing to provide any help or support, allowing the harassment to continue without any penalty. Hétéra and Kouraj’s work challenges various and complex dimensions of discrimination and oppression that affect the LGBTI community on a level that is sometimes difficult to recognize but is incredibly impactful.