Female Democratic Agency: Lessons from Rural Haiti

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Virginia Tech

Rural Haiti provides an excellent case to study the human security crisis threatening women. Haitian women are often single mothers, leading average households of 4-6. In elected positions, female leadership is seldom recognized. With only 3.5% of parliament comprised of female leaders, policies decided at the state level seldom address the challenges women face in the countryside (HDI, 2017). Haiti has the highest mortality rate for children below the age of 5 and expectant mothers in the Western Hemisphere (WHO, 2017). This crisis is a significant one. When a mother struggles, both her life and her child's are threatened.

Yet the human security crisis is not all we can learn from rural Haiti. We can also examine the unique ways women have chosen to respond to this crisis and the potential for female democratic agency. There is a significant lack of elected female officials in Haiti. This fact invites us to consider the impact rural Haitian females, such as the famn chay, are potentially making in Haiti. Famn chay are traditional birth attendants who assist mothers in their home deliveries. They are also first responders in times of crisis, providing meals to hungry families and using their collective resources to benefit children in need. Some famn chay, I suggest, are promoting an innovative form of democratic agency through their local community council, konsey kominote. Such form of agency does not focus on formal mechanisms of representation. Instead, threatened by growing social and income inequalities, this particular group has chosen to organize to address the human security crisis currently threatening women in rural Haiti.

democratic agency, human security, Haiti, participation, female, famn chay