Written by: Tara Livesay, CPM, Director – Heartline Maternity Center
“As long as outmoded ways of thinking prevent women from making a meaningful contribution to society, progress will be slow. As long as the nation refuses to acknowledge the equal role of more than half of itself, it is doomed to failure.”– Nelson Mandela
When traveling the streets of Port-au-Prince, it is common to see Haitian women carrying seemingly impossible loads – of rice , water, merchandise for sale – on their heads. The balance, poise, and strength it takes to navigate the busy streets and uneven ground while carrying the weight of such precious cargo – is a fitting metaphor for the way Haitian women live.
The women in Haiti shoulder the majority of the daily work. They are tough, courageous, tenacious, and graceful. It is typical for women to handle the responsibilities of the home and also be the main breadwinner for their families. From my perspective, they carry this land on their heads and they do it with style.
Like many places around the world, Haitian women face significant gender inequities and injustices. Compounded with Haiti’s staggering poverty and systemic nepotism, it is difficult to imagine standing up and carrying on under the weight of it all.
Yet, the women of Haiti do not simply endure. With hope and determination, they rise and work to build a brighter future for their families, communities, and country.
This International Women’s Day (#IWD2019), as we celebrate the achievements of women and call for a more gender balanced world, I want to tell you about Delicia.
Delicia is an empowered, professional Haitian woman. She first attended nursing school and then, after deciding to change career paths, graduated from sewing school in Haiti in 2010. The next year, she was hired to teach beginning sewing classes at the Heartline Education Center. Seven years into her full time position as an instructor, Delicia now teaches the most advanced sewing class at the Education Center. She is a key leader, frequently assists the Director of the school, and is held in high regard by staff and students.
Delicia teaches male and female students, and they all know she means business. She has created a learning environment where men and women are equally respected, and held to equally high standards. “When I enter the room, I don’t play. I expect the best from them.”
When asked about the state of equality within Haitian society, Delicia stated that a woman can do the work that a man can do but she will be required to work a lot harder, as proving herself capable will be a large part of her job. She acknowledges that Haitian society has work to do to improve cultural and societal imbalances. “Men are often believed to be capable without needing to show their skills. Women won’t get that same benefit, women will need to prove everything.”
Delicia is also a mother to two young sons, Davens and Allen. The staff at the Heartline Maternity Center had the privilege of walking with Delicia during her pregnancies. She courageously faced complications in pregnancy and labor due to dangerously high blood pressure, but is thriving as a mother of two healthy boys. After each birth, Delicia took the standard three month maternity leave and then chose to return to her work outside the home.
Delicia bears great responsibility – she is raising her sons, providing for her family, running things at home, teaching income-generating skills to other men and women in Haiti, and leading by example. And she does it all with strength and grace.
Though I am inspired by Delicia – she is not concerned with approbation. Instead, she dreams of a Haiti where women and men are able to mutually respect one another, find common ground, and be esteemed as equals.
She believes her role as a strong professional working woman and mother will encourage her female students that they too can raise families and seek professional employment in order to be able to financially contribute to their households.
On this International Women’s Day, I honor the work Delicia does at home, at Heartline, and in her culture at large. Her daily efforts are building a brighter future.
Today, let us encourage one another to continue working for a more gender balanced world – where women have equal opportunities and rights. #BalanceforBetter
Will you share with us about an inspiring woman you know and how she’s creating a better world for all? We can’t wait to read your comments!