Haiti: Women at the heart of reconstruction | Development and Peace

Haiti: Women at the heart of reconstruction

February 12, 2013
Khoudia Ndiaye, Communications Officer

As part of the inauguration of the first 50 houses of Development and Peace’s housing reconstruction project in Ti-Boucan, Haiti, Communications Officer Khoudia Ndiaye was on site to speak with future homeowners and others who participated in this project.

“I’m a mother of three children and I work five days a week. I’ll sometimes come to the construction site on weekends too because, three years after the earthquake, what matters most to me is the reconstruction of my country,” says Ismène Elismar Garçonnet, one of the chief engineers tasked with producing houses in Ti-Boucan.

Ismène has been working at our side since the project began, and she’s living proof of how crucial women are to the process of reconstructing the country. Now 43 years old, this young civil engineer studied at the 3A Faculty of Engineering and Architecture in Port-au-Prince and was also a social worker helping the most vulnerable of her compatriots. Her role in the project is to develop house-manufacturing procedures, organize training workshops, and supervise work on the construction site.
“Thanks to the project, I was able to go to El Salvador last year for training in the area of reinforced masonry. I then travelled to Thailand to learn more about the ring-beam masonry we are now using in house construction. So as well as supporting my family, I’ve been able to broaden my knowledge,” she says, before adding that “this project is a work experience that’s not only enriching for me but also for the labourers, foreman and forewomen, craftspersons and other engineers who are all becoming a  little more skilled each and every day.”

Added to the project’s social utility for hundreds of families of Ti-Boucan, the setting up of a plant in April 2012 had a significant impact on the economy of the commune of Gressier. The project constitutes one of the most important engines of job creation for the region, employing over 600 skilled workers, craftspersons, foremen and forewomen as well as generating 100 or so indirect jobs (merchants, restaurant owners, etc.).

The plant operates from Monday to Friday, and workers put in a pair of shifts: the morning group is on the job from 6 AM to 2 PM, while the evening group works from 2 PM to 10 PM. A large number of women are employed at the plant and are found at all levels of decision making. “What I witness every day is the motivation of our team and how our project impacts the entire community. In terms of job creation, it’s simply extraordinary, directly affecting the area of Ti-Boucan and also attracting workers from neighbouring towns and villages. Everybody comes out a winner,” explains Ismène.

“We have the technology and the workforce to build more houses, so it’s important to do everything we possibly can to help other vulnerable and homeless families settle in a permanent home. Now that’s what I call solidarity! ” she concludes.

Development and Peace is driven by an unshakeable commitment to strengthening the capacities of local organizations so that thousands of individuals can live fully dignified lives.