Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The women of Gressier Part 2

On July 10th ElevateHer entered Gressier Haiti to host a women's conference to encourage the women there to heal and find life from chaos.  This blog is part 2 of an update describing our time together in Haiti.  Part one of the update could be found here.

The three days were filled lessons on  grief, forgiveness, setting a vision for the future, and we closed with a lesson on HIV/AIDS awareness.

My favorite moment was during our last session on HIV/AIDS, many questions were being asked.  A woman stood up to ask a "hypothetical" question: suppose my husband and I were married for 22 years, the first 6 years we lived together and after that he moved away to the US for 16 years; upon his return I asked him for an HIV test before we connected sexually, at which he agreed, however the test revealed that he was HIV positive, what should I do?

You should have heard the commotion in the room after the question was asked. I wanted to cautiously approach her question as to not bring any new ideas that could disrupt the community and create more harm than good, while at the same time speak truth that may benefit the women and promote change in their communities. So I gave the safe answer: "this is a complicated situation that may need more attention because one approach will not work for all families; this is a personal issue because there are couples that may choose to stay and work things out".

But I gathered that my safe answer was not satisfactory for the women as they continued to speak among themselves.  And I was completely comfortable allowing them to chatter among themselves; I was overjoyed to see them engaged in conversations.

A surprising response came from a male spectator who lingered around the entire three days; he even asked for a copy of the materials to be in his ministry. He asked for permission to speak and I gladly gave him the mic because the work of elevating women will need our brothers who understand the worth and value of women. He stepped forward and asked the woman: "is this a real life question because if it is I'd be more than willing to helping you navigate through making the best decisions for you and your family". He went on to say: "women be very careful when making these decisions as to not put your lives at risk. I also want to caution you to not accuse your husbands of wrong doing without proper investigations because wrongfully accusing him can cause him to leave. If he comes home with a different shirt from the one he left with, wait for an explanation before jumping to conclusions".

Let's just say his last few statements did not sit well with the women at all. One in particular exclaimed if my husband returns home with a different set of wardrobe, he has some explaining to do. We laughed, we debated and we were better for entering the discussion.

There's something significant about giving women the opportunity to discuss and think critically about their lives, their bodies and issues going on in their communities.  When women are given information, resources, opportunities and the affirmation that they can, trust me you will see communities changing. 

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