Saturday, March 08, 2008

Remembering the Plight of Haitian Women

Today, in honor of International Women's Day, let us remember the plight of Haitian women in the Bahamas. Below, I have posted a story my wife wrote for our newsletter nearly two months ago.

During our first week back from Christmas break, the ladies from the morning women’s group and I decided to do some visitation in the McCollough Corner neighborhood where our church is located. In total, we were able to visit the homes of six different women, pray for them, and share the Good News of salvation with those who are not yet believers.

At the first home, we met Francine, a Haitian woman who came to Nassau just ten months ago. Shortly after she arrived, her brother found a man for her to live with. Because it is very difficult for Haitian women to find jobs to support themselves, it is not uncommon for many to end up in arrangements like this where they cook, clean, and provide sexual favors for a Haitian man—often a married man whose wife and children are still in Haiti—in exchange for room and board. Unfortunately for Francine, her situation—sad as it was—turned out worse than most. The man she was living with beat her almost every day until he finally abandoned her, leaving her alone in a one room shack, five months pregnant, and with no means of supporting herself. Francine told us that she asked her mother to send for her so she could go back home to Haiti. But her mother was unsympathetic, reminding her that if she comes home she will not be able to send money to support the family back in Haiti. You see, the economic situation is so desperate in Haiti that even though Nikelia has not been able to send home a single penny since arriving in Nassau, her family is still staking their hopes on the fact that she will eventually be able to do so. Like so many Haitian women in Nassau, Francine is trapped between the prospects of a future of dependency on men or the possibility of dashing the hopes of her family by returning home empty handed. What could we possibly do for Francine or the many other women in our neighborhood just like her? We did the only thing we knew how to do in that moment. We prayed for Francine, shared the gospel with her, and promised to visit her again.

Later that afternoon, we met another lady by the name of Anna. She is from Haiti but is married to a Haitian man who was born and raised in the Bahamas. They have three children, two in Haiti and one here in Nassau. Because her husband is a drug addict and rarely gives her money, she relies on prostitution to earn extra spending money and to send something back home to her family in Haiti. Unlike Francine, Anna seemed far from desperate. On the contrary, had we not known her occupation we would have been impressed with her entrepreneurial zeal. But in the absence of better employment opportunities, she—like many other Haitian women—has chosen this lifestyle because it presents the best option to improve her economic situation. While she politely listened to us while we shared the Gospel message, Anna seemed reluctant to commit her life to Jesus, knowing that that to do so would bring an end to her otherwise lucrative “business” activities.

One of the things that we discovered during these visits is how inadequate the Gospel message seems to be in light of the difficult problems faced by the women in our neighborhood. We were not surprised that many of the women we visited refused to embrace the Gospel because they believe that the church does not and cannot meet their needs and, worse yet, the pastors and leaders only want their money. Indeed, we learned that it is very difficult, even hypocritical, to ask women such as these to give up the lifestyle upon which they depend for their very livelihood. Put differently, we learned that it is not enough to simply preach repentance and belief in Jesus Christ. We must also work to provide these women with opportunities to economically support themselves in ways that will allow them to enjoy the dignity befitting those who are created in the image of God.

The week after our visitation, we took a break from our normal activities and spent a day in prayer and fasting, inviting other members of the church to come and join us. One of the main things that we prayed for was for the salvation of the many Haitian immigrants residing in Nassau and, especially, those living in the vicinity of our own church right here in McCollough Corner. Just as importantly, we prayed that we would be more faithful in living out the Gospel message, that we would do more than just preach the right words, and that we would be able to minister effectively to both the economic and spiritual needs of our neighbors.

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2 Comments:

At Monday, March 10, 2008 at 1:38:00 PM EST , Blogger Celucien L. Joseph said...

Dan,
This is a very moving post.
Francine's story is not really new. It is a common issue facing many haitian women living in the US. It is unfortunate that women are being treated in such manner. Unfortunately, most of the time in the US, Illegal haitian women who live in such condition will not report those men to the police. For, they're afraid of being deported to Haiti.

Thanks for sharing the story.

Blessings,
Lou

 
At Friday, March 14, 2008 at 6:05:00 PM EST , Blogger haitianministries said...

Lou, Unfortunately, both of these stories are more common than one would like to admit. And not just in the Haitian community either. I think all immigrant, refugee, or poor communities in general face these challenges at some level or another.

 

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