Three leading members of the Haitian women’s movement were killed in the rubble of last week’s earthquake. Myriam Merlet, Magalie Marcelin and Anne Marie Coriolan founded three of Haiti’s leading women’s rights organizations and worked together for decades.
Merlet fled Haiti in the 1970s, but returned in the 1980s because, as she once wrote, “as a Haitian woman, I must make an effort so that all together we can extricate ourselves from them.” She worked for the country’s Ministry for Gender and the Rights of Women for years at Chief of Staff and more recently as an adviser. She also founded Enfofamn, which works to raise awareness of women and their achievements. Eve Ensler, who was close friends with Merlet, told Democracy Now, “Myriam was a, she was a light. She was a force of Haiti. She was one of the great feminists. She was a radical feminist. We joked often about the fact that it was wild that she and Marie-Laurence, who’s the Minister of Women, were actually in power, that we had radical feminists in power.”
Coriolan founded Solidarite Fanm Ayisyen (Solidarity with Haitian Women), which is a women’s advocacy organization. Her daughter, Wani Thelusmon Coriolan, told CNN that “She loved her country. She never stopped believing in Haiti. She said that when you have a dream you have to fight for it…She wanted women to have equal rights. She wanted women to hold their heads high.”
Marcelin was a lawyer and actress who founded Kay Fanm, a women’s rights organization that focuses on domestic violence and making microloans to women business owners. Evans Paul, former mayor of Port-au-Prince mayor, knew Marcelin since she was 14. He told the Miami Herald that the public figures lost, including Marcelin, “will leave a huge void in the country because these were people who played an important role on behalf of the society…Haiti has lost a lot and it will take a long time before it can stand again.'”