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  • Writer's pictureFabienne Lerine

Women's Association of Lafon Gets a New Home!

We are so excited to announce that the Women’s Association of Lafon (Asosyasyon Fanm Lafon or AFL) has signed a lease and is moving into a permanent facility –– a beautiful two-story house in the center of our community –– funded by Cultural Capital Haiti’s Women's Empowerment Project.

My name is Fabienne Lerine. I am a native of Lafon, a rural area just outside the Haitian city of Jacmel, and I’ve lived here my whole life. As president of AFL, I make it my job to notice the problems my community confronts every day. Some of these problems are societal –– economics, politics –– but others are more personal, like cases of intimate partner violence, where each case is its own unique story of trauma.

Another problem, which is both societal and personal, is the fact that so many young girls in our community are getting pregnant by the time they’re 15 or 16. The reason they’re getting pregnant at such an early age is that they are not getting sex education at home, or in school either. That’s why AFL is now taking on this role, holding sex education classes to inform these young people about the dangers of unprotected sexual activity. This involves teaching them about birth control methods like condoms and the pill, but also teaching them skills for taking charge of their bodily autonomy and standing up to the men in their lives. These young girls suffer a lot of sexual abuse, at the hands of boys their own age and also grown men. Men often take advantage of the situation when a girl can’t buy her own food or clothing. A guy will spend five or ten US dollars on her and then they sleep with her, and then she gets pregnant. So she drops out of school. These young girls can’t even take care of themselves at that age, let alone a young child. I see this scenario repeated again and again and again in my community. We need to equip these young women to break the cycle.

There is one young member of our association named Wisline. She is a strong young woman who has a lot of capacity. But recently we realized that something was wrong. She came to us and told us that she was being sexually and physically abused by her boyfriend. Because she didn’t have anywhere else to sleep, she had to accept all this aggression. He ended up beating her up really badly.

That’s when I contacted Cultural Capital Haiti. They sent us some money immediately so we could get her out of that situation. We rented her a room, and found her some work through another organization, doing athletic training for younger girls. She is a really fantastic soccer coach, and this work gives her joy. But there are so many cases like this among the population that we’re serving. We have another young woman named Francesca. Her mother and father are no longer alive. She lives with her sister-in-law. The husband of the sister is constantly propositioning her, and sometimes touches her at night, because they all sleep in one room, in one bed.

Cases like these are some of the most compelling reasons why AFL needs to increase its capacity, so it can help these young women. And why we are so happy to be finally transitioning to a permanent facility with the help of CCH. We also have the problem of women who simply keep having more babies than they can support. They need these classes too, to teach them about birth control and sexual autonomy. I see women with a lot of children and I ask them “Why do you have so many children?” They say, “I don’t want to but my husband doesn’t want to wear a condom.” And so I ask them “Well why don’t you get on birth control?” And they say, “Because there is no institution to provide it.” They’re literally asking for this now. They want a place they can go every month to get birth control. The women are also requesting that there be a day for the men to attend the family planning classes as well. We have a lot of men who get women pregnant and don’t even worry themselves about it for a second. We want to at least give men the option of coming in and educating themselves about how women’s bodies work. For all these reasons, we are so excited to be transitioning to a physical building now, a beautiful house that we have leased with help from CCH. This building is in the process of becoming a safe space where women can take these classes, and access this critical health care, and build up their sense of self so that they can deal with men. So that they can live comfortably, and not be having child after child after child. And in cases of extreme need, we have four bedrooms upstairs where women can shelter for a few weeks, to get them away from an abusive partner. Alongside our other activities –– the professional trainings, the sports clubs, the daycare, the movie nights –– providing these vital women’s services remains the core of our mission. And we are so glad to be on solid ground now to continue this work. ––Fabienne Lerine President, Women's Association of Lafon (Translated by Reginald Turnier)


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