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Social Policies for Women and Children should be the Pillar of Haiti's Reconstruction

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15 February 2010|Press Release

Nearly 60% of the child labour market in Haiti are girls who take care of others instead of going to school, says the study, now available online.

(15 February 2010) Only 2% of Haitian children under five receive preschool education, often being taken care of by elder siblings while their mothers work, says the ECLAC study "The Economy of Child Care in Haiti", available online as of today.

Less than 1% of salaried working mothers leave their children in care centers, notes the report. In Haiti, the family is primarily responsible of caring for children, followed by elder children performing domestic chores, friends or neighbors.

It is a generalized practice in Haiti to leave children in charge of caring for others, including their younger siblings. Children of both sexes and youths who should all be in school are often in charge of their younger brothers and sisters or working in other households taking care of other children or in domestic chores. Almost 60% of the child labour market are girls who take care of others, says the study.

State policies for infant care are very weak in Haiti, and the conditions of extreme poverty suffered by the vast majority of the population - and which have worsened since the earthquake in January -  not only impede children and youths from going to school, but have also disintegrated families.

Due to the absence of the State and women's pressing need to make a living, children are frequently handed over to relatives or other families in Haiti or in neighboring countries for their care. Women heads of households become providers, while their children are being cared for by other families that are often caring for their own children as well.

The "transnationalization" of families caused by economic hardship opens the door to all sorts of trafficking, including sexual trafficking, warns the study, coordinated by Haitian consultant Nathalie Lamaute-Brisson.

The report addresses the problem of public policy-making in support of child care by analysing the family as the prime caregiver and the need to advance towards a model of universal social protection. In this context, preschool education policies are a priority, asserts the study.

This publication will help take into account the crucial role of women in the economy in reconstruction policies in Haiti, stated ECLAC Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena.

"Just like the physical infrastructure needs to be rebuilt, it is also necessary to invest in social infrastructure to facilitate child care. One of the pillars of Haiti's reconstruction should be social policies geared at facilitating child care in order to avoid having women bear the burden exclusively," she said.

The study is also a homage to the thousands of women who died or survived the earthquake and must face daily life in conditions of extreme inequality and poverty, stated Bárcena.

Three valuable Haitian women lost their lives during the earthquake: Myriam Merlet, Anne-Marie Coriolan and Magalie Marcelin, founders of three of the most important women's organizations in Haiti.

Shortly before her death, Merlet was chief of staff at the Haitian Ministry of Gender and Women's Rights and was still a chief consultant there. She focused on economic affairs, women's issues and political sociology and was co-founder of the NGO Enfofam.

Like Merlet, Coriolan was also chief consultant to the same ministry. She founded the pro-women's organization Solidarity with the Haitian Woman (SOFA). Coriolan played a key role in getting the Haitian courts to stop treating rape as a mere "passional crime".

Marcelin, an attorney and actress, founded Kay Fanm, a women's organization dedicated to domestic violence that provides services and refuge to women, as well as microcredit to working women.

For more information, contact ECLAC's Information Services. Email:; telephones: (56-2) 210-2149.