Health in Motion: Finding Hope and Happiness in Haiti
Ani Kington, Guest Contributor
In June 2011, I had the opportunity to travel to Haiti with IPPF/WHR to celebrate the opening of a new clinic. Although I was only there for a couple days, the trip had a big impact on me. Seeing the work of Profamil, IPPF/WHR's Member Association, affirmed my strong belief in the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights.
During the trip, we visited Profamil clinics, walked through a tent city, talked with youth volunteers and staff members, and attended the inauguration of the new clinic in Port-au-Prince. I experienced a whirlwind of emotions during and following my very short trip. Although I was aware that the situation in Haiti was still dire, even a year and a half after the earthquake, I was surprised by the number and size of the tent cities. The dense population that called the tents home had undoubtedly been living there longer than they had hoped or anticipated.
The air was thick and hot in Haiti, and it felt more sweltering within the tent city. The only escape from the sun was in the shade of the tents, some of which were nothing more than basic tarps suspended above the ground. The tents provided shelter from the sun, but they intensified the heat.
We were there in the middle of the day, but as I walked around, I imagined what it must be like for a young girl at night. With no doors to lock, limited lighting, and minimal law enforcement (much of which is corrupt), girls and women are extremely vulnerable to sexual violence. Sexual assault and rape are more prevalent during times of crises, and incidents are particularly common in the tent cities.
A moment I will never forget was when a woman came to us crying and explained that her young daughter, who was only 4 years old, had been sexually assaulted. Even though I couldn’t understand the language she was speaking, the grief on her face transcended that barrier and the pain in her voice were piercing. She explained that no action would be taken against the perpetrator, and that he and his companions had threatened her, her family, and others within the community.
While many things were difficult to witness in Haiti, I also saw a tremendous amount of hope within the community, especially through the work of Profamil. I met many dedicated people who work hard to reach the most vulnerable people in Haiti. At the clinics, the wait to see a doctor was very long, even at 9 a.m. on the day the new Profamil clinic opened. Among the many women waiting, there was a sense of calm and security that came from knowing it was a safe place to find care and support, whether for reproductive health care, contraceptives, prenatal care, or counseling.
Sexual and reproductive health and rights are essential to gender equality and human rights. Every woman must have control over her own body and the ability to decide when and if she will have a child. Women must be able to choose whether and with whom they will have sex and be able to walk outside without feeling threatened or ashamed. Women have the right to live happy and healthy lives that are self-determined, and that is why IPPF/WHR’s work is so important.
I am honored to be a part of the Health in Motion photography exhibit. The images I selected from my trip to Haiti are those I felt are both hopeful and honest. They show young girls with promising futures, people finding joy in their daily lives, and the unyielding love between mother and child. Because of IPPF/WHR’s work and the many dedicated people I met at Profamil, I am hopeful young women and girls in Haiti will have the support they need to grow into powerful and confident women.
Ani Kington received her BFA in photography and imaging from Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Her work has been exhibited at Aperture Gallery, Musée de l’Elysée, Aranapoveda Galeria, Les Rencontres d’Arles, and Galerie Azzedine Alaïa.
Ani will be exhibiting her work at our Health in Motion photography exhibit on Monday, November 5th.