Lawyer's death is devastating to womens' rights // Haiti

Magalie Marcelin founded an organization in Haiti that provides shelter and other necessities for women

By Todd Harrison

On Wednesday January 27th, 2010


photo by UNICEF SverigeOne of the many stories of loss to emerge in the two weeks following the Haiti earthquake is that of Magalie Marcelin, the lawyer and actor who founded Kay Fanm (Women’s House), an organization that provides shelter, legal services, microloans and literacy services for Haitian women.

An internationally respected advocate for womens’ rights, Marcelin’s death was reported by CNN and other news sources in the days following the quake. A San Fransciso Sentinel article quotes Carolle Charles — the Haitian-born, New York–based sociology prof and chair of the Dwa Fanm advocacy group for Haitian women — as saying that Marcelin’s body was pulled from rubble by her own daughter.

More from the Sentinel piece:

Charles remembered a visit to Haiti about two years ago when Marcelin, believed to be in her mid-50s, called seeking help. Hoping to deflect the political clout of a defendant in court, she asked for women to come out in droves and pack the courtroom. Charles watched as the man on trial was convicted for battering his wife.

Marcelin visited Canada in the spring of 2004 to speak at at the launch of an Amnesty International campaign to combat violence against women. She is one of three prominent womens’ rights activists confirmed dead in the wake of the disaster in Haiti. Myriam Merlet, a leading adviser to and former chief of staff of Haiti’s Ministry for Gender and the Rights of Women, and Anne Marie Coriolan — founder of Solidarite Fanm Ayisyen (SOFA), a network of 12 community centres for women located across Haiti. The deaths of tthese three women are a tremendous setback for Haitian women, who need support now more than ever.

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Photo by UNICEF Sverige