"He grabbed me, stuck a gun to me. Then he and several men raped me near my daughter." Sexual assaults against women in Haiti have reached epidemic proportions since the country's devastating earthquake in January 2010.
According to Amnesty International, more than 250 cases of rape were reported in Haiti's 1,150 camps in the first 150 days after the earthquake. Some victims are three and five years old. The Empower Foundation (www.theempowerfoundation.org) says "something must be done now," per the organization's founder, Kareen Riviere, Ph.D.
"The Empower Foundation is my way of getting off the sidelines and making a real difference," says Riviere. Riviere, who has family in Haiti, wanted to help the women and girls, believing they "are important players in transforming the future of Haiti."
The Silver Spring, Maryland-based non-profit was founded in December 2010 by Riviere with a mission of "empowering communities to have a voice, take action, and improve their quality of life."
The quake's destruction left more than 1 million people homeless with women living in unsecure tent camps. Nightly, women use public latrines in poorly lit areas, vulnerable to men who may be waiting to attack them.
Police protection is nearly nonexistent, and prosecution of offenders is uncertain, making the crime repeatable. This inspired Riviere and others to enact the organization's first mission, Operation: Empower Haiti. (Read more in The Empower Foundation's February 2011 Report, "Operation: Empower Haiti.")
The Empower Foundation will prepare more than 1,000 safety kits for Partners in Health to deliver to its clinics in Haiti. The safety kits will contain a small battery-free flashlight, safety whistle, and local resource card. The Empower Foundation has established partnerships with businesses equally passionate to ending the violence.
"Upon learning what Haiti's women have been enduring, we are honored to partner with The Empower Foundation to support this effort," said Felicia Evans Long, a corporate partner and founder of Sweet Events and Planning, LLC.
Monetary and supply donations are being sought to produce the safety kits.
Ways you can help:
- The Empower Foundation will host its inaugural fundraiser, a family-fun event, on Sunday, May 22, 2011 at Bowlmor Lanes, 5353 Westbard Avenue, Bethesda, Md., from 5-8 p.m.
- Empower Haiti's women and look good while you cook. Purchase a sassy apron from corporate partner, Apron Elegance using special code "EMPOWER." Apron Elegance will donate $10 of purchase to The Empower Foundation. Shop now. http://www.apron-elegance.com/empower.html
- Donate to The Empower Foundation (www.theempowerfoundation.org)
The Empower Foundation (www.theempowerfoundation.org) is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering people and communities to have a voice, take action, and improve their quality of life. The organization was founded in December 2010 by Kareen Riviere, Ph.D.