Celebrating International Women's Day in solidarity

Biz Ghormley
March 8, 2012

Happy International Women's Day! To mark the 101st celebration of International Women's Day, we at Digital Democracy want to take a moment to reflect on our work to empower women and girls,  and celebrate their remarkable vision, courage, achievements and inspiration around the globe.


Two years ago, Dd launched programming focused on Women and gender issues in Haiti, a country where women make up 52% of the population but are largely excluded from formal decision making and have historically been the subjects of disproportionate rates of violence. Following the earthquake in 2010, violence was exacerbated (Read the recently released NYU Law study reflecting on the alarming rise in sexual violence post-earthquake and how it has effected women's lives). Dd's work aimed to highlight our partners agency and empower them to use their voices and share their expertise in new ways, as part of a systemic address to gender-based violence (GBV).

In the wake of the January, 2010 earthquake, we began collaborating with KOFAVIV, FAVILEK and other women's groups in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, providing trainings in photography and digital literacy. These trainings were aimed to give women new tools to share their stories and perspectives on life in displacement camps and poor neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince with a national and international audience. You can see some of their photos here.

Over the past two years, our collaboration has grown and evolved, as new digital tools and increased technical capacity have strengthened the organizing and advocacy efforts of our partners in Haiti. Other aspects of our work in Haiti include trainings to enhance digital literacy, technical skills, mapping and digital security. Following these trainings, our partners in Haiti have created a blog of anonymously posted stories reflecting their voices from the ground in PaP.

We have worked with KOFAVIV to develop a secure database to digitize & streamline information as part of a comprehensive approach to helping women survivors of gender-based violence access needed  medical, legal and psychological services. With the database, KOFAVIV can analyze and track trends in cases received. This improves their ability to report on GBV and leverage their expertise on the ground to push local, national and international power players to implement concrete measures to address the security of women and girls in Haiti.  (read more about the database in _Wired _here) and follow up on our progress here with a recent report on our work.

We have also worked with KOFAVIV and the two largest mobile carriers in Haiti, Digicel & Voila, to set up a FREE emergency response call center for GBV. In Haiti there is no effective 911-like system. By dialing 572, callers are connected to our partners who provide support and resources over the phone, directing them to  the nearest treatment centers, educating them about basic rights and legal recourse and stressing the importance of medical care in the first 72 hours after rape to prevent HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancy. (Read more about the call center here.)

Our work in Haiti is part of a larger constellation of work to amplify and support women as leaders in Haiti. In theHuffington Post, Stephanie Foster highlights one of the current national initiatives to unite women as a driving force in the reconstruction and development of Haiti.

This effort has been supported by Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, United Stated Department of State. In the Ambassador's supporting remarks, she highlights the universality of this commitment: "You know well that no country can get ahead if it leaves half of its people behind, if it fails to tap the potential, experience, talents and vision of its women. You also know that when women progress, all of society progresses."

We agree. In solidarity with women working from the grassroots around the globe, those working with technology to help build tools to unite those women and enhance their work, from our women-led team at Dd, we wish you all a very happy, celebratory and empowering International Women's Day 2012.

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Biz Ghormley
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