Young girls participating at the Saturday Workshop
KOFAVIV, MADRE’s sister organization in Haiti, firmly believes in equipping the women they serve with the information they need to reclaim, exercise, and advocate for their rights. And this is no different for the young girls who participate in their Saturday workshops. In addition to trauma counseling, skills building and other rehabilitation activities, these young survivors of violence also participate in trainings and activities that focus on women’s human rights. By developing knowledge of their rights, KOFAVIV gives these young girls the tools they need to become empowered and to advocate for other girls who have faced similar traumas and violence.
The Saturday workshop project has nurtured the growth of young women’s rights activists. Last year, we shared with you the story of “Minou”, a young girl who less than a year into her participation in the workshops became a KOFAVIV outreach worker. Using her personal experiences to engage and motivate her peers, she now provides peer counseling and mentoring to other young girls at the Center. And our partners recently told us that many other girls like Minou have expressed an enthusiastic interest in becoming more active members in the organization.
With your support, KOFAVIV can continue to provide the crucial services to help these girls overcome the trauma of sexual violence and grow into empowered young activists who will fight to put an end to violence against women and girls.
In our last update, we shared stories of survival from young girls who attend KOFAVIV’s Saturday workshops. Every Saturday, Espas Timoun (Children’s Space) continues to host day-long workshops for young women between the ages of 15 and 22, many of whom are survivors of sexual violence. At the workshops, the girls continue to receive trauma counseling and engage in rehabilitation activities.
The KOFAVIV Center is open to the young girls six days a week and has become a haven where they can socialize, speak with peer educators and build their self-esteem as well as develop new interests, friendships and marketable skills. The program provides the girls with a hot meal and a stipend to cover their transportation to and from the Center. The girls also have access to the Center’s nurse and are accompanied to a health center when they need medical attention. More importantly, in addition to the immediate help provided through the workshop, the girls build friendships and support systems with each other that keep them pushing forward.
Every third Saturday of the month, the girls, divided into four groups of seven or eight, take part in counseling sessions with KOFAVIV’s in-house therapist. These sessions are crucial in helping the girls deal with the traumatic experiences they’ve faced, build back their self-esteem and trust in others, and most importantly, heal. In addition to sharing their stories, the girls engage in trust exercises like the one pictured here so that they can learn to lean on each other for support. The exercises remind the girls that they are not alone. With the help of KOFAVIV and each other they are reminded that there is hope—that they can change their lives for the better.
It’s been three years since the devastating earthquake in Haiti, but what only lasted seconds has continued to reverberate for young girls there. Many were orphaned by the disaster and left to fend for themselves in the dangerous, overcrowded camps. Vulnerable, hungry and alone, many were forced into survival sex — exploited by men who give them basic necessities like shelter, food and water in exchange for sex.
At the Saturday workshops, the girls are able to build their confidence through the support networks and friendships that they form at the Center. One way they do this is through sharing their stories. This therapeutic process allows these girls to begin healing from the physical and emotional traumas they’ve endured.
Recently, KOFAVIV shared some of the stories of these courageous young girls with us**. With permission, we’re sharing them with you now. I hope you’ll read them and see how together, we can truly make a difference in the lives of these brave girls.
**The names of the girls have been changed to protect their identities.
Simone, Age 15 “I don’t have a mother, she died. My dad doesn’t take care of me. I’m living at someone’s house because I don’t have anywhere else to go. But when that person doesn’t have anything for me, I have to go ask the guys who are by my house for a little money so I can eat. They want me to sleep with them before they give it to me. Finally, I gave in. I sold my body to live. Sometimes I sleep with people so I can have a little money to eat. I came to the workshop because I see that it will be good for me. It will help me manage my life and pay for my school. The skills I am learning will help me live.”
Annette, Age 16 “I live with my aunt. She doesn’t help me at all. She just gives me a place to sleep. To be able to live, I have to sleep with a lot of different people. Sometimes, if I don’t want to, they’ve pointed weapons at me. Sometimes they don’t give me anything afterwards. Or, they give me 50 gourdes, which I can’t buy anything with. I don’t go to school. I’m embarrassed because I don’t even know how to write my name. I come to KOFAVIV because I want my life to change.”
Patricia, Age 14 “I am living by myself in a camp. A married man reached out to me. I don’t have a choice so I’m forced to have sex with men. I go sleep with people to find a way to eat. Sometimes I can make 200 Haitian dollars in a day [$23USD]. But sometimes, I don’t make any money. There are some people who make promises, saying that they will give me the money, then I sleep with them and they don’t give it to me. What pushed me to come to this workshop is that I saw that it will be very useful to me. It will help me be autonomous, and be independent, so I can get out of this life, out of this situation.”
Johanne, Age 13 “I am living with my older sister. She’s 15. Our parents died in the earthquake. Sometimes, I will do people’s laundry to make money. Other times, I will sleep with guys so that I can feed myself. I am proud to come to the workshops. It will be so good for me. I’m going to learn and practice these skills and I will be able to provide for myself and my sister.”
Since our last update, KOFAVIV has been busy with their Saturday workshops for young girls. The sessions continue to have success in building the girls’ confidence and self-esteem as well as teaching them new skills, such as jewelry-making and hairdressing. I wanted to share some photos and highlights from the last few months of the program. I hope you enjoy!
Photo 1) KOFAVIV recently organized a beach retreat for the young girls participating in their weekly workshops. The beach retreat was used to both celebrate the girls’ successes as well as to give them reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the city. The girls were able to have fun and relax with their peers and their mentors. This photo shows the workshop participants and their mentors on the way to the beach.
Photo 2) KOFAVIV has added cooking classes to the Saturday workshops, giving the girls a new skill to master. This photo shows a KOFAVIV coordinator and mentor teaching the young girls how to prepare a meat dish.
Photo 3) The girls’ jewelry-making skills are improving! At the beginning of May, KOFAVIV held a local artisan fair at the KOFAVIV Center. Among the products being displayed at the fair were the necklaces and bracelets made by these young women. This photo shows the beaded jewelry made by the girls, on display at the fair.
Photo 4) This photo shows young girls posing with their crafts!
In our last update, we shared with you that KOFAVIV launched Saturday workshops for young teenage girls at risk of sexual exploitation. MADRE Program Coordinator Sahita Pierre-Antoine was recently in Haiti visiting our sisters at KOFAVIV. She brought back this update from the Saturday workshops that we’d like to share with you now:
The Saturday workshops organized for young girls engaging in sexual exchange are still underway at the KOFAVIV Center. Currently, forty girls participate in the weekly meetings. The sessions have been very successful in building the girls' self-esteem and teaching them skills that can later be applied to income-generating activities such as arts and crafts, fabric printing and dying, jewelry making and hair dressing. While I was speaking with KOFAVIV about the sessions, they shared this success story with me:
"Minou", a 16-year-old girl, was regularly exchanging sexual favors in order to provide for herself. She was brought to the KOFAVIV Center by one of the organization's community agents and was enrolled in the Saturday program shortly after. Six months into her participation, Minou's behavior had changed: she began opening up with her peers and therapist about her past experiences and started to adopt a more positive outlook on life since entering the program. Minou was so invested in the Workshop that she became a KOFAVIV outreach worker. She has since been actively working with other young beneficiaries, using her personal experience to engage and motivate her peers.
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