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#189: Haitian women urged to be politically active (fwd)


Haitian women urged to be politically active
Miami Herald July 18 1999
 By HANS MARDY Herald Writer 

 Haitian women living on and off the island should take a greater role
in shaping the policies and future of the country, said a Haitian
activist visiting South Florida last week. ``Women have been neglected
in most conferences where major decisions have taken place,'' said Marie
Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue, the former Minister of Information in Haiti.
``If we know how to respond to our families' needs with a very
 little budget, as low as $200 to $300, we know better how to respond to
the needs of the country.'' Lassegue spoke for more than two hours to
representatives of more than a dozen Haitian community groups at a forum
sponsored by Haitian Women in Miami at the Unity for Dignity offices, at
16405 NW 14th Ave., in North Dade. Six months ago Lassegue founded a
nonprofit organization -- Fanm Yo La or Women Are Here, a group
dedicated to pushing for more women in all levels of Haitian government.
 It was formed after the National Women's Conference was held in Haiti,
when Lassegue realized there were many women willing to fight for a
share of the political power on the island. Miamian Marlene Bastien,
president of Haitian Women in Miami, also attended the conference, and
she and Lassegue decided to link the homeland organization
 with other Haitian groups in South Florida. ``It is important to link
our organizations together, especially women's organizations,'' said
Bastien. ``It's not a question of Haiti. It is a worldwide matter.
 Half the population, half the power.'' Said Lassegue: ``[Women]
represent more than 52 percent of the Haiti population. Although we have
a large number of well-educated women who can serve their country, we
still aren't represented in the power.'' Many who attended the meeting
in North Dade agreed there are not enough women involved in the
political affairs of the island. ``I support the women's struggle. It's
time for a change,'' said Jan Mapou, president of Societe Koukouy, who
represented his cultural group at the meeting. ``We have enough
well-prepared women who could play important roles for a better Haiti.''
 According to a study led by the group, there are only three women in
the 80-member Haitian Parliament. None of the 27 Congress members are
women. The same is true of the nine-member High Supreme Court and the
nine-member Treasury Department. Only six of the 127 mayors are women.
And only one of the 20 political parties is led by a woman.
 ``It's not a question of quantity, but we are also qualified to occupy
high-ranking positions,'' said Lassegue, 44, who will run for the
Haitian Senate from western Haiti later this year. ``Men are controlling
everything in the country -- the taxpayers' money, the justice, the law.
They do not share the power.'' Along with other women's organizations on
the island, Fanm Yo La has already hosted several workshops to educate
women about leadership. The group has not only provided information to
women interested in politics but also urged them to run for office.
 Lassegue, a veteran Haitian journalist, spent much of the weekend in
Miami speaking on Creole radio shows, reaching out to the local Haitian
community and asking for support for the women's organizations.
 She said Haitians in Miami can help by putting pressure on Haitian
officials, asking them to hire more women in their administration or
asking their families to vote for more female candidates.
 ``If women get a chance to get involved in different aspects of the
political life of the nation, the society will be better,'' she added.