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#2067: Lassegue, Former Aristide minister, to run for the senate... (fwd)


Lassegue, Former Aristide  minister,  to run for the senate under her   
own party_________By Jennifer Bauduy  Haitian Times Staff

In the last three decades women in Haiti have made significant      
strides in the political and social life of this machismo country. As
 the elections near in march we take a look a five women who have made a
difference. The are all running for public office. This  is the second
of a six part series. In a scene dominated by men, Marie Laurence
Jocelyn Lassegue  wants to get more Haitian women involved in politics.
"I have  participated in many meetings with a lot of women, and we feel
that  there must be women in the parliament," said Jocelyn Lassegue. "
The parliament is where the laws are being made, and that's where the
control of the state is being done. This is why I made the decision to
participate in elections."  Jocelyn Lassegue has been very active in
HaitiÕs womenÕs movement  since she returned to Haiti 16 years ago. She
left Haiti as a young girl with her parents and was raised in Central
Africa and in France. Last year, Jocelyn Lassegue founded Fanm-Yo La, a
non-governmental  organization focused on encouraging women to
participate in politics and on opening-up places for women in
decision-making areas. "With 52 percent of the population being women,
we think itÕs not right that  you donÕt find women in places of power
and decision-making," she said pointing to a book she was reading
entitled in French, ŌHow Women Change Politics." The 44-year-old former
journalist is one of several women who will compete in upcoming March
legislative elections to represent HaitiÕs West department in the
senate, which includes Port-au-Prince, the capital. This is not the
first time Jocelyn Lassegue has run for political  office. She almost
won a senate seat in HaitiÕs troubled 1997 legislative elections.
Run-off elections were never held because of  charges of nation-wide
fraud and ballot stuffing. Jocelyn Lassegue was also minister of
information and culture in 1991prior to the overthrowof Jean-Bertrand
Aristide. But Jocelyn Lassegue and the former priest had a falling out
and she is running as an independent candidate.Jocelyn Lassegue said the
senate needs a new approach and that the  civil society must to learn to
use the senate and to lobby.  Currently, many Haitians view lawmakers as
someone who should  build a road in his department and do not realize
the power of laws. "I  think it is important that the Haitian people
learn what is the real role of a senator. The role of a senator is vote
laws, to control the state," said Jocelyn Lassegue, who is a member of
the Open the Gate Party (PLB). Founded in 1992, PLB is one of the
splinter groups from the  Lavalas party, which brought Aristide to
power. Jocelyn Lassegue said she thinks there needs to be greater
respect for the parliament by the  executive branch. "I think this is
very critical to give back to the parliament its real role," she said. 
Throughout its history, Haiti has either had a parliament that is
completely controlled by the nationÕs president or a parliament that
has been at loggerheads with the president. Jocelyn Lassegue said that
decentralization was one of her priorities. Too much control, funding,
and decision-making in held in Port-au-Prince, she said. The majority
of public services and schools are concentrated on the capital. "I am  
going to fight for this, so that each department gets a budget that
enables them to develop the zone in accordance with their priorities,"
she said. Jocelyn Lassegue also said that womenÕs concerns must be
incorporated into all issues. "For example education - women are less   
educated then men," she said. Haitian culture is another concern.
Jocelyn Lassague said she felt that in recent years Haitians have begun
to value less the countryÕs national  heritage and culture. "We have to
take back our value, know our culture, know who we are, know our
history, know our tradition, and encourage our artists," she said. As
someone who spent much of her   life outside of Haiti, and whose family
lives largely abroad, Jocelyn   Lassegue said including Haitians in the
Diaspora into the countryÕs  politics is critical.  She said she
intended to focus on pushing legislation that would allow Haitians
abroad to vote in elections. "I think we must make structures in
consulate, embassies, churches and temples so that Haitians living    
abroad can vote, and when there is an amendment to the constitution
allow double nationality," she said. Once in the senate, Jocelyn     
Lassegue said she is going to push to get much of HaitiÕs antiquated  
anti-women laws changed. One such law stipulates that if a married
couple gets a divorce, the husband may re-marry as soon as the next day,
but the woman must wait one year. "Originally, this was in case the
woman was pregnant, they could be sure who was the father, but today
there are controls, it  can be verified," she said. Rape is still not
legally considered a crime in Haiti. It is considered an attack against
honor, a misdemeanor. WomenÕs groups have fought hard to have rape made
a crime, but  the new legislation has still not voted. Another law
states that if a man commits adultery, in order to get a divorce, the
wife must catch her  husband in their own bed with his mistress. The man
does not have to go to such extremes to get a divorce from a wife who
committed adultery.