Thursday, September 30, 2010

Empowering and Protecting Adolescent Girls in Haiti

AmeriCares, Population Council and a consortium of aid organizations working together to help break cycle of poverty and violence for adolescent girls

The Haiti Adolescent Girls Network, a coalition of humanitarian organizations co-founded by AmeriCares and the Population Council, today received high-level recognition for its efforts to reduce girls' risks of poverty, violence, and rape. The Network's exemplary collaboration and commitment to empower and protect Haitian girls was featured during the opening plenary session of the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting held in New York City.
The innovative program was launched with leadership support from Nike Foundation, The Abundance Foundation, NoVo Foundation, United Nations Foundation, and Partridge Trust.

The earthquake that shattered Haiti last January left more than 3.7 million Haitians in need of humanitarian assistance. The quake not only leveled buildings but damaged already weak institutions and exacerbated the acute challenges facing women and children stemming from decades of political insecurity and recurrent natural disasters in that country. The earthquake orphaned thousands of children and separated thousands more from their parents.

Prior to the earthquake, 42 percent of girls in urban areas aged 10-14 years lived without parents. The numbers have increased since January, leaving girls as young as 10 years old to provide for their younger siblings.

With so much responsibility thrust upon them at such a young age, the girls are at risk of not finishing school and being caught in the cycle of poverty. Even worse, living in displacement camps and slums, girls are now especially vulnerable to violence.

A recent survey conducted by INURED, a local Haitian research organization, reported that 14 percent of the residents of Port-au-Prince's largest shantytown, Cité Soleil, witnessed or experienced violence, including beatings and rape. The study also reported that it is common for girls living in relief camps to resort to trading sex for food and shelter.

The Haiti Adolescent Girls Network is spearheading a movement to bring groups of at-risk girls together at least weekly in dedicated girls-only, safe spaces. "We are empowering adolescent girls to secure their rights and health, receive psychological support, continue their education, and find safe and productive livelihoods. As their future is reconfigured, so are the families they support and the communities in which they live," said Judith Bruce, senior associate and policy analyst at the Population Council.

The Haiti Adolescent Girls Network was founded on the possibility that even in times of violence and tragedy, the most extraordinary results can be achieved through collaboration and a common vision. The organizations in the Network are committed to increasing awareness among humanitarian responders and service providers about the distinctive and critical needs of adolescent girls in post-earthquake Haiti.

"Having a diverse group of local and international organizations come together with a shared vision is incredibly powerful. We invite others to join this collaborative effort. Together we can reduce risk and create opportunity for girls, and put them at the forefront of building back a better Haiti," said Curt Welling, president and CEO of AmeriCares.

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