By Jessica Slattery
A sea anchor stabilizes boats in heavy weather, preventing the vessel from turning broadside and being overwhelmed by waves. In the past year, Mission Haiti has relied on its own metaphorical sea anchor to navigate natural disasters, civil unrest, and authorized and ordered departures. The Mission’s women leaders, who outnumber men in leadership positions nearly 4-to-1, have served as this steadying force by cultivating a durable and inclusive community and showing strong support for women’s empowerment programs.
In addition to Ambassador Michele Sison and Deputy Chief of Mission Robin Diallo, Mission Haiti’s political counselor, economic counselor, management counselor, public affairs officer, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) coordinator and several other leadership positions are currently held by women. Working together, these leaders deliberately built a climate of resilience by prioritizing diversity and inclusion and supporting women-focused training and outreach programs. For example, post’s Federal Women’s Program implemented a year-round agenda of initiatives and community activities, including trainings on unconscious bias and a series of events in support of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, an international campaign to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls.
Additionally, Mission Haiti supports numerous programs focused on the protection and empowerment of women. The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, USAID, PEPFAR and other agencies use these programs to protect Haitian women from gender-based violence and trafficking; improve their access to health services and credit; and address barriers to women’s political and economic advancement.
In Haiti, with an already empowered and supported community, energy can shift in these moments to implementing policies on disaster readiness, accountability and keeping information flowing to ensure the safety and security of the Mission community and U.S. citizens. By creating a climate of resilience in calm times, Mission Haiti’s women leaders have skillfully and collaboratively navigated crises and are ready to weather any storms that lie ahead.
Jessica Slattery is vice consul at Embassy Port-au-Prince.