Working For Human Rights in Haiti
In a small school in Port-au-Prince, men and women in business attire are crowded into rows of bright blue desks listening intently to the speaker at the front of the classroom. Ansadou Cherenfant is a professor at Grand College Hugo Paul de Frères, and a leader in Haiti’s human rights community. The human rights training at this local school is one of several he has conducted since his experience with the U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) in May of 2013.
According to the U.S. Department of State “the most serious impediments to human rights [in Haiti] involve weak democratic governance; the near absence of the rule of law; and chronic, severe corruption in all branches of government.” Basic human rights problems include arbitrary and unlawful killings by government officials, poor conditions and prolonged pretrial detention in prisons, and violence against women. Cherenfant was invited to come to the U.S. on an IVLP project titled Citizen Participation in a Democratic Society as a result of his work providing insight into these and other human rights challenges. Cherenfant identifies the most pressing human rights issues in Haiti to be based on socio-economic inequality.
“We have to protect the housing rights of the people and protect [their] environment. The Government must encourage entrepreneurship to facilitate investment for reducing poverty in Haiti,” said Cherenfant.
During his visit to the U.S., Cherenfant learned new strategies for engaging citizens in addressing human rights issues. His program included a trip to Salt Lake City where the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy arranged meetings with community leaders in journalism, state government, the nonprofit sector and education. These meetings provided a dialogue around democratic principles and demonstrated a broad spectrum of citizen involvement in government.
“As a leader, [IVLP] was a beautiful experience of my life after my internship at the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights…Now, I’m using it in my career to change the Haitian Human Rights situation. I work hard with my group in the Haitian Community. My dream is to become one of the most active Educator[s] in the world. I saw a lot and I learned a lot in the U.S. This knowledge can help me to participate in the development of my country,” said Cherenfant.
Since returning from his IVLP experience, Cherenfant has worked with a group of human rights educators called GRAPRODH (Human Rights Education Promotion Group) to conduct several trainings and is looking forward to more in the future.
“We believe in education in Human Rights. We can address these issues to help the Haitian to know his Rights and duties. We want to do a big campaign of Civic Education in Haiti,” said Cherenfant.
Through these and other community-oriented activities, Cherenfant hopes to empower the citizens of Haiti to take an active role in promoting and protecting human rights.
“As a Human Rights activist and Educator, my trainings help Citizens to respect the Democratic Principles and love his Country. And take knowledge of the existence of these issues for building a better Haiti.”
by Kaitlin Spas, UCCD Program Director