Actress Nicole Kidman, wrapping up a visit to Haiti today in her role as United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, stressed the need to tackle gender-based violence and support initiatives that advance women’s livelihoods as the country rebuilds after the January earthquake.
Accompanied by Inés Alberdi, Executive Director of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Ms. Kidman visited with people affected by the disaster, which killed more than 200,000 people and caused severe destruction and damage in large swathes of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and other areas.
They met survivors of violence living in a temporary camp, Haitian and UN officials, and with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working to support women’s needs as part of the recovery efforts.
“During this trip I saw first-hand how this humanitarian disaster is impacting women and girls. The lack of shelter and security makes them more vulnerable to violence, in particular sexual violence,” said Ms. Kidman.
“Yet, I have also seen the determination and resilience of women and men in Haiti to rebuild their country,” she added.
According to UNIFEM, violence against women and girls was pervasive in Haiti even before the earthquake struck, with a 2006 census showing that one in three women had experienced violence.
Ms. Kidman and Ms. Alberdi visited a temporary shelter for women and girls who experienced sexual violence or are at risk, where women leaders work to make sure there are medical and legal services as well as counselling and livelihood training.
“The women of Haiti are working hard to rebuild every aspect of their life, but they need adequate and sustained support for their safety and security,” said Ms. Alberdi.
“There is also a critical need to address the longer-term development needs of women, such as income opportunities, and the restoration of schools for their children. Both as a matter of right and as smart development and security policy, women must be centrally included in the planning of post-disaster relief and recovery,” she added.
UNIFEM provides financial and technical assistance to foster women’s empowerment and gender equality. It is a part of the recently established UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, to be known as UN Women.