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Plight of Haitian Women Discussed at UN Commission

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As more than 2,000 women gathered at the UN headquarters during the 54th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meeting, the plight of Haitian women in the aftermath of the earthquake has become the focus of attention.

With 42 percent of Haitian households headed by women, the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the UN Development Program (UNDP) and the Huairou Commission organized a parallel event with the two-week CSW meeting to highlight the voices of Haitian women and their families.

The Huairou Commission is a global coalition of networks, institutions and individual professionals that links grassroots women's community development organizations to partners.

During the panel discussion at the Millennium UN Plaza near the UN headquarters in New York, Haitian Minister of Women's Affairs Marjorie Michel discussed the role of women in the Caribbean country in the post-quake reconstruction.

The Haitian Ambassador to the UN Leo Morales and Haitian activists from local organizations were also present.

"As a mother, as a woman, I share their suffering," Michel told the audience through a translator.

Before the January 12 earthquake, women and young girls were already vulnerable, making them easy targets for sexual crimes and violence, she said.

Michel warned the situation has become worse for Haitian girls, and cited the need to address women's specific needs.

A systematic policy to promote women's roles in building the country is crucial, especially when it comes to protecting women from sexual violence, particularly in refugee camps, she noted.

"I want to reiterate our commitment ... to continue to struggle against violence against women," the minister added.

From March 1 to March 12, the CSW is discussing its goals: gender equality, development and peace, as well as examining the progress made since the Fourth World Conference on Women was held in Beijing in 1995.

(Xinhua News Agency March 4, 2010)