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Seven women ministers in Haiti’s new cabinet

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Catherine Scott
WVoN co-editor 

Although Haiti’s record on women’s rights has been far from exemplary, just over a third of its cabinet is now made up of women.

They have been given seven portfolios out of a possible 22 (up from two women and 17 men in 2011), according to Haiti Libre:

  • Minister Delegate to the Prime Minister for Human Rights and the fight against extreme poverty – Marie Carmelle Rose Anne Auguste
  • Minister for the Status of Women and Women’s Rights – Yanick Mézil
  • Minister of Finance and Economy – Marie Carmelle Jean Marie
  • Minister of Public Health and Population – Florence Duperval Guillaume
  • Minister of Tourism – Stéphanie Balmir Villedrouin
  • Minister of Planning and External Cooperation – Josépha Raymond Gauthier
  • Minister Delegate to the Prime Minister in charge of promoting the peasantry – Marie Mimose Félix

Although the result of the presidential elections was announced in April last year, a new government led by prime minister Laurent Lamothe only began work officially last week, after the previous prime minister resigned in February.

Lamothe has said he intends to prioritise the fight against extreme poverty and protecting the environment. And, he might have added, gender inequality.

Although Haiti ratified the UN Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women in 1981, it wasn’t until 2005 that rape was made a criminal offence.

The country also lacks specific laws against domestic violence, despite estimates that up to 70% of Haitian women are victims of violence.

Marriage laws are unequal, with the minimum age for marriage set at 15 for women, 18 for men. And maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the region.

Women were particularly affected by the lawlessness following the earthquake that hit the country in January 2010, according to an Amnesty International report.

Sexual violence is still rife, not helped by a government in disarray, with many women forced to sell sex just to survive.

Perhaps with more women fighting their corner in government, Haiti’s women and girls will start to see changes for the better.

With female ministers heading areas such as finance, public health and human rights, it seems more likely that issues of violence and poverty affecting women will come to the political forefront.

We can but hope.

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