Hope, Prayer, and Poverty

Haiti’s women live with violence, destitution–and renewed promise

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Like an increasing number of Haitian women, Madame Dentes Delfoart provides much of her family’s income; she sells small quantities of food from a shed in front of her house. But for other women in this densely populated country, sex is one of the few viable commodities. Unprotected intercourse sells for $1.75; a virgin gets $5.

Women’s hopes were raised in 1994, however, with the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In a symbolic move, he recently turned over the Quartier Gnralathe military headquarters where many of the nation’s violent coups were planned–to a ministry for women.

Madame Delfoart, 41, shares her small home with two of their four surviving children and her husband, who grows bananas and potatoes. A Pentecostal, she prays, she says, everywhere and at all times.

MADAME DELFOART: My mother was too poor to send me to school, so my work has always been to do a little selling from my house. Three or four times a week I go to the market to buy the things I sell. I go on my burro, so this takes me all day. Monsieur Delfoart does not sell what he grows in his garden, but if he gets a job he gives me the money. Whatever we have to do, I am the one to do it. It makes me sad that we don’t have any money, because I would really like to renovate my house. But still, my family is not really poor. When we’re fine, we’re fine. When we’re not fine, we’re not fine. I can’t change my life.

I’ve had six babies and lost two; my mother made six and lost three. It is God who gives us children, God who decides these things. I gave birth to all my children in my house, with no doctor–I have never been to a doctor–only my mother. My husband stayed outside and prayed for me.

I’m very happy in my marriage; we take care of each other and support each other, we will love each other for life and die together. He is the only man I admire, the only man I confide in. My life is in his hands.

Go to Russia . . .

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