Haiti: Espace Sûr – A safe space

Education for young women and girls in slums of Haiti

Background and Programme Context

Haiti has 11 million inhabitants and is considered the poorest country on the American continent. The country is regularly hit by natural disasters. The strong earthquake in 2010 claimed 230’000 deaths and more than 1.5 million people lost their belongings. The population suffers from poverty, lack of education and lack of access to basic medical care. The political situation is unstable - violence and corruption are commonplace. Over 6 million Haitians live below the poverty line of 2.41 USD per day.

Girls and young women are particularly affected by the problems. For example, 77% of all girls attend primary school, but only just under 30% are still enrolled in secondary school, as they already have to take on leading roles in the household. Without sufficient education it is practically impossible for young women to escape poverty. In addition, violence against women is widespread, but in Haiti there are no specific laws against domestic violence, sexual harassment or other forms of violence against women and girls. Due to the lack of access to information on contraceptives, the number of teenage pregnancies is worryingly high, especially among those girls who have not been able to attend secondary school.

The Horyzon programme of YWCA Haiti is mainly implemented in Pétion-Ville, Port-au-Prince. This location was chosen because it is located directly on the edge of a slum, making it easily accessible by foot for the beneficiaries, but also because it is well visible and easily accessible from the city center. The program is open for women, regardless of their religious and political affiliation and serves their basic needs for food, dignity, peace and security.

Target Groups

Girls between 5 and 19 years and young women between 20 and 35 years from the poorest social classes of Port-au-Prince. 350 girls and young women benefit directly from the programme every year. Since parts of the programme are also implemented in other centers or schools, around 200 other girls and young women benefit from it.

Aims

The young women and girls in the programme can lift themselves out of poverty. They know about the importance of a good school education, knowledge of their own rights and duties, gender equality, health, healthy nutrition and hygiene. They use the skills acquired in the programme to become economically independent and bring their knowledge to their families. They strengthen their leadership qualities and can later stand up for socially relevant issues in political committees or in their profession. In this way they become part of a positive change in Haitian society.

Activities & Effects

Youth Center

Every year, the Youth Center offers 150 girls, between 5 and 20 years of age, the opportunity to participate in the tutoring and Safe Space program sections.

After School Tutoring

In this part of the programme the girls build up their school knowledge. They receive tutoring from trained mentors and teachers. The girls have access to professional psychological support and also receive a balanced, warm meal.

Safe Space

In this part of the programme the girls build up knowledge in life skills. The teachers work in age groups and conduct workshops on topics such as self-esteem, hygiene, health, gender-based violence, rights and the environment. Leisure activities such as self-defense, yoga, art or dance are also offered. Participants receive a warm meal after the lessons. Under the direction of YWCA Haiti, the Safe Space Program is being implemented in 2 other organizations. In total, another 200 girls benefit from the program.

Summer camp

With the annual summer camp, which is carried out together with YMCA, the Safe Space Program offers at least 250 Haitian girls the opportunity to break out of their everyday life for eight weeks, to apply the knowledge acquired in the program and to acquire new knowledge in a playful way.

Activities and activities
  • After School tutoring.
  • Personal and professional support.
  • Implementation of training in the areas of self-esteem, hygiene, health, gender-based violence, rights and the environment.
  • Distribution of warm, balanced meals.
  • Implementation of the summer camp together with YMCA Haiti.
Effect
  • The girls between 5 and 19 years have improved their school performance and are better nourished, healthier and better cared for.
  • They know their rights and strengthen their self-confidence.
  • They apply the knowledge gained in the programme in everyday life and share it with their families and in their environment, thus acting as role models.

Leadership Academy

The Academy reaches 200 young women between the ages of 20 and 35 every year. Four times a year, a 10-week leadership program is conducted with 50 young women, coordinated by trained psychologists. Together with teachers from the YWCA and external experts, they care for traumatized young women and conduct workshops on various topics.

Activities
  • Organisation of workshops on ethics, human rights, gender-based violence, sexual health and rights, self-esteem and the environment.
  • Implementation of workshops on the labour market and financial planning.
  • Psychological support and trauma work.
  • Mentoring training.
Effect
  • Young women between the ages of 20 and 35 make healthy decisions about relationships and family planning. They have equal relationships, recognise gender-based violence (including within the family) and use the resources available to them to combat it.
  • They know their rights, demand them and are role models for other young women in their environment.
  • They have access to the labour market and know how to position themselves well in it and achieve financial independence.

Results 2019

Due to the political unrest in the country, the resulting difficult economic situation and the violent street protests in Port-au-Prince, the center of YWCA Haiti was open on fewer days than originally planned. As a result, programme activities have been reduced.

Despite the challenging situation, a total of 379 girls and young women participated in the YWCA Haiti program in 2019. At the center of YWCA Haiti they found a safe place where they could exchange ideas with other girls and receive instruction in practical life topics as well as professional, psychological support.

In the Youth Center, 230 girls aged 6-14 years improved their school performance thanks to after school tutoring, and in workshops they built up knowledge in the areas of self-esteem, violence prevention, rights, health and environment. In the Leadership Academy, 162 young women aged 15 to 30 years learned to make free and self-determined life decisions and to assume role models and leadership roles. As graduates of the Leadership Academy, they make healthy decisions regarding family planning and relationships. They lead equal relationships, recognize gender-based violence (also within the family) and use the resources available to them against it. The young women know how to position themselves in the labour market and become financially independent.

152 girls between the ages of 5 and 18 visited the summer camp of YWCA Haiti during the summer holidays. During 5 weeks they had the opportunity to improve their school knowledge, to participate in workshops on health, law, self-confidence and environment or to learn about new leisure activities through games and fun.

All programme participants received at least one warm and balanced meal, on the days they were in the center.

Youth Center
  • 230 girls attended school tutoring from Monday to Thursday afternoon, which was conducted by professional mentors and teachers. They received the necessary school material to solve their homework.
  • 230 girls took part in workshops on the various program topics. The workshops were conducted by female mentors. The girls were also able to bring in their own topics, which they had worked on together with the mentors in the group.
  • 3 of the older participants passed on their knowledge at their schools as so-called "Young Leaders" and thus reached at least 150 other young people.
  • As part of the international campaign "16 Days against Violence against Women", 8 program participants from YWCA Haiti took part in a rally and campaigned against gender-specific violence and for women's rights. Specific workshops on these topics were held in advance with all programme participants.
  • All program participants had access to psychological support. 6 girls have taken advantage of counselling.
  • During the summer camp, 152 girls took part in handicraft workshops, spelling competitions and tutoring. Towards the end of the camp they held an art exhibition and celebrated a graduation ceremony together with their families.
Leadership Academy
  • 162 girls participated in workshops on leadership, self-esteem, financial planning, violence prevention, sexuality, health, rights and the environment
  • 81% of them recognise gender-based violence and know what resources they can use to counter it.
  • 61% of them know how to write applications and CVs and how to present themselves in job interviews.
  • 5 young women have found a job after graduating from the Leadership Academy and are financially independent.
  • All program participants had access to psychological support. 4 of them have claimed counselling.
  • 6 graduates of the program were trained as mentors and conducted the workshops in the Youth Center.
  • 8 former Leadership Academy graduates were trained as mentors and conducted the program in Martissant. This enabled another 88 young women to complete the Leadership Academy.

Results (2018)

Program Area “Youth Center”

After School Tutoring
  • 183 girls received tuition 4 times a week from trained mentors and teachers. The girls received the necessary material to solve their homework.
  • Every day there was a warm meal for each program participant.
  • All 183 girls had access to professional psychological support.
  • 145 girls attended a dental hygiene workshop and received dental check-ups.
  • 126 girls were tested for HIV and syphilis, all with negative results.
Safe space
  • YWCA was a safe place for 195 girls to meet on Friday and Saturday.
  • Every Friday and Saturday workshops were held at the YWCA Center. Topics included leadership, self-esteem, financial planning, violence, sexuality, health, rights and environment. Activities such as self-defense, yoga, art and dance were also offered.
  • All participants received a meal on Fridays and Saturdays.

Program Area "Leadership Academy"

  • 273 young women have participated in workshops on leadership, self-esteem, financial planning, violence, sexuality, health, rights or the environment.
  • 273 young women learned how to write applications and CVs and how to present themselves in job interviews.
  • All participants came from the two most disadvantaged districts of Port-au-Prince (Martissant and Cité-Soleil).
  • 16 mentors and trainers (former graduates of the Leadership Academy) have either carried out the programme in another organisation or are active in YWCA after-school tutoring.

A Video about our Activities

Location

Activities worldwide

Further information

Flag of Haiti
Facts about the program

Name: Espas Pa Mwen - A place for me
Partner organization: YWCA Haiti
Location: Pétion-Ville
Goal: Education for young women and girls in slums of Haiti
Target group: 750 girls (5 to 19 years old) and young women (20 to 30 years old),
Required funds 2020: CHF 160'000
Duration: 2020-2022
Responsible: Susanne Furler, susanne.furler@horyzon.ch

Facts about Haiti

Capital: Port-au-Prince
Population: 11.1 mill.
Human Development Index: 0.503 (rank 169.)
Life expectancy: 63.7 years
Median age: 24 years
Youth unemployment (15-24 years): 29.5%

Source: Human Development Report