IHI celebrated International Women's Day with our patients, their friends and family in an a packed day full of speakers, discussions, sharing of opinions and much more. The day was filled with multiple speakers that addressed a multitude of topics concerning women in Haiti like their rights, their health and societal standing.
The event started with an introduction and welcome from IHI director, Dr. Vincent DeGennaro and program manager Mr. Kedner. They welcomed the patients and congratulated them on being present on this special day. March 8th International Women's day which is a day designated to uplift women and show support and solidarity to our patients in their battle with cancer.
The day was comprised of discussions centering around:
1) Women's rights, gender roles and norms in the Haitian society
2) Dealing with women's cancer in Haiti
3) Sharing experiences and testimonies on being a woman with cancer.
1) Mr. Charles Olibert gave a talk on women's rights and addressed gender roles and norms in the Haitian society. He established the difference between sex, gender and learned behavior. He acknowledge that women's rights is something that women and men need to be aware of and become proactive about in order to create equality. Many of the patients expressed that they never had a conversation like this before and were very happy to learn something new and be able to identify some of the issues they were facing in their daily lives. The were engaged in the conversation and really enjoyed learning about both the history of women's rights in Haiti and how to apply change in their daily lives.
2) Our medical Director Dr. Bernard gave a short talk on cancer in Haiti, especially women's cancer. The majority of our patients are women which shows the importance of spreading awareness and continuing to educate those around them about cancer. Breast and cervical cancer are the top 2 cancers amongst women in Haiti. Dr. Bernard explained the importance of relaying the information learned to others in their environment. There is a lot of misinformation, discrimination and stigma surrounding cancer in Haiti and we hope that by giving out accurate facts about the illness, we can help alleviate the negative connotations associated with it.
3) We also had current breast cancer patient and survivors share their story and experiences with cancer. This is always a crucial part of our activities as it gives the new patients the opportunity to hear from others that are going through exactly the same process as they are. Older patients and survivors can serve as guides and inspiration to those that are just beginning their journey with cancer. Patients are able to feel safe and share their worries amongst each other. They can share tips, resources and even build friendships by learning from each other.
The most special and heartwarming part of our International Women's Day Celebration was the painting session with Natasha Rhau (picture 1). Natasha is an Haitian artist and designer that specializes in garment making, painting, bags and so much more. She is also a breast cancer survivor which made her contribution even more special to us during this wonderful day. She was able to guide the patients during their paintings and offered different design ideas. Her creativity and assistance was essential to this activity. The women got to paint whatever design came to mind or follow along to Natasha's painting. It was a relaxed atmosphere and the patients got to forget about their worries for a bit. Scroll down for more pictures!
We then moved on to the awareness and education session of our program where a series of topics were discussed.