Strength & Grace

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This International Women’s Day, we want to celebrate women’s achievements. Of course today we celebrate the Michelle Obamas and the Condoleezza Rices of the world. We recognize the big names of the influential women working on behalf of us all.


Today, even more than that, we want to celebrate the women fighting hard for her family and going unseen. Our history and the systems we live under often cause women’s successes to be overlooked, downplayed, or purposefully ignored.

We dream of a world where women do not regularly feel unrecognized. We look forward to a day when women do not face discrimination and are treated equitably. While developed nations have made great strides toward equity, struggling countries like Haiti have much, much more work to do to achieve gender equality.


Haiti is a country of stark and overwhelming contrast. There is stunning physical beauty, both the landscape and the people. At every turn, we meet women that live their lives with inspiring strength and grace despite horrific circumstances and glaring inequality. Women are having babies, raising families, and are frequently their household’s main source of income. They are suffering under deep poverty and corruption, yet they continue to find joy and community all around them.


Life for women is both beauty and horror.


All of it is real. The good. The bad. The beautiful. The hideous.


But what sticks with us?


What comes to represent Haiti?


For me, the answer is clear: the women.


I am inexplicably endeared to Haitian women. I am touched, moved, inspired, awed, strengthened, fascinated, and challenged by the women of this culture. The old women leave me speechless. Old women in Haiti have seen things. They know things. They exude wisdom and knowledge.


To me, they are Haiti.


This International Women’s Day, I’d like you to meet “Olez” (pictured above), a warrior for women that you won’t see mentioned anywhere else.


“Olez” is a nickname, as is common in Haiti. Olez was born Rosemarie in December 1959 under the reign of Papa Doc. Today she is 64 years old. She’s a hardworking woman that has used small-scale commerce as her way to provide; she sells drinking water, Coca-Cola, and other beverages.


Olez had ten children. In her lifetime, she has buried six of them. Four remain, and Olez loves and fights for them daily. Her husband died many years ago, leaving her to provide for their medical, educational, and daily needs. She even worked through the adoption process of two of her grandchildren as they were brought into families abroad.


In Haiti, the women bear the majority of the daily work. From my perspective, they carry the weight of the world and they do it with style. They are tough, strong, courageous, reliant, tenacious, and graceful. They deserve to live in a society that honors, respects – and reveres – their innumerable contributions.


On this International Women’s Day (and every day) Heartline Haiti intends to continue to work to recognize how invaluable the contributions of women have been and to tell their stories.


Whether it’s through Heartline’s Maternity Center, in classes full of young women at the Education & Employment Center, or in community at the women’s prison, you can support the women of Haiti through a gift to Heartline.

About the Author


Tara Livesay

Tara Livesay is originally from Minnesota. She is a Certified Professional Midwife and a Licensed Midwife in the State of Texas. Tara is the director of the Heartline Maternity Center, located in Port au Prince, Haiti. Tara and her husband, Troy, along with their seven children, moved to Haiti in January of 2006, where they lived and worked for fourteen years. In addition to overseeing The Heartline Maternity Center, Tara is the co-founder of The Starting Place, a center for maternal healthcare and education in Central Texas. She’s also a co-author of The Starting Place Curriculum, which equips healthcare providers to provide holistic midwifery care in low-resource settings.

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