Red Flowers for Mother’s Day in Haiti

Red Flowers for Mother’s Day in Haiti

This weekend we celebrated Mother’s Day in the U.S. Without a doubt, being a mom has been the most rewarding and significant aspect of my life. My mother has been gone for 8 years now, but not for 1 minute forgotten. Her unconditional love and support propelled me through some very difficult times in my life and even today, are my touchstone.

As we follow the lives of the three main characters in When Dreams Touch, Adelaide, Giselle and Kate, we get a glimpse of the joys and heartbreaks of motherhood. While there are a few similarities between the U.S. and Haiti, there are interesting and concerning differences.

Mother’s Day is also celebrated on a Sunday in May in Haiti. But Haitians do not buy cards in which they write something touching to their mothers. They do not serve breakfast in bed to them. Haitians celebrate Mother’s Day with songs, tears and prayers in church and women wear flowers in honor of their mothers. White flowers are worn in honor of mothers recently passed; lavender for mothers long gone and red for mothers still alive. I’m sure that you can imagine how sad it is to see so many young boys and girls wearing white and lavender and singing songs through their tears.

From an expectant mother in the U.S., we often hear, “I just want a healthy baby.”

Thankfully, the odds are vastly in our favor. For most of us we have the options to decide when and if we have children; we have the information and medical care to help us chose wisely and with respect of our personal value systems. And if we have complications during pregnancy or delivery or if our son or daughter becomes ill, we have access to healthcare services that can be life saving and prevent disastrous complications.

For women in Haiti and other areas of the developing world the odds are not nearly so favorable. So what’s it really like for women in Haiti like Adelaide and Fatra as they approach motherhood?

Beginning with choice, 1 in 3 women have no access to information or means to plan when they will begin their families or how often they will become pregnant. Today in Haiti, nearly 2 out of 3 women deliver their babies without a skilled birth attendant (Compared to 1/1000 in the U.S.). The lifetime risk of dying during childbirth in Haiti is 1 in 83 (U.S. risk is 1 in 2100). The most common cause of maternal death in Haiti and the developing world is hemorrhage followed by hypertension—totally treatable and preventable.

The joy experienced when a Haitian woman holds her new son or daughter is overshadowed by the very real possibility that her child may not survive. Infant and under five child mortality rates in Haiti have improved over the last decade but still remain among the highest in the world. Nearly 8 of every 100 infants born in Haiti will not reach the age of 5 years. The causes of death are easily treated and prevented–infections, malnutrition and accidents. Of those they do survive, 25% may experience long-term complications of malnutrition and never reach their full physical growth or intellectual capacity.

What is being done and can be done to change theses concerning statistics?

In When Dreams Touch Chapter 30, Giselle shares a radio message with women in her rural community, encouraging them to learn and take control of their bodies. While the women discuss methods of contraception—controversial and emotionally charged for sure among international assistance organizations and individuals—Giselle is mostly advocating that women fight for access to education, for themselves and for their daughters. There is no doubt that providing women with access to education benefits individuals, families, communities and society.

Educated girls become women who are less likely to contract HIV/AIDS or be victims of domestic violence. On average, they earn more money, are more likely to participate in politics, and have fewer and healthier children. Educating women grows the GDP of a nation on average of +3%.

Organizations in Haiti and elsewhere in the developing world are committed to educating girls and women. To learn more about several organizations in Haiti that I personally work with and that are actively and successfully educating girls, please visit these websites www.outreachtohaiti.org and www.ufondwa.org.

With your help, we can ensure that all children in Haiti will wear red flowers on Mother’s Day in Haiti!

Thank you!

2 Comments

  1. Jen
    May 28, 2014

    Wow, lots of information here. It sounds like life is so hard for women in Haiti. What do women do for fun or to relax? Is it all work??

    • Rosemary_Author
      May 28, 2014

      Hi Jen,

      I usually don’t like to make generalizations about Haiti. But I will say from my personal experience, the vast majority women do work very hard! The day-to-day tasks tend to be very labor intensive, especially in rural areas where there is little or no electricity and few people have vehicles. As in When Dreams Touch, considerable time and human energy are consumed with carrying water and getting from one place to another, washing clothes and preparing meals (on charcoal stoves), caring for children and animals and going to market.

      Female solidarity in Haiti is a powerful force! Relaxation time is often spent with family and friends, sometimes doing chores together.

      Most families don’t have TV, some have radios.I would also say that more time is spent going to church and prayer.

      Despite the poverty and difficult conditions for many Haitians, celebration is enjoyed whenever possible with music and dancing and food!

      For those of you out there who may have a different perspective–please chime in.

      Rose

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