Educating and Empowering Haitian Women and Girls


GLENDALE, New York — Haiti, a small country located in North America on the island of Hispaniola, has a female population of about 5.6 million out of a total population of around 11.1 million. Yet, women continue to suffer the detrimental effects of gender biases and social norms as they do not reach the same educational and professional success that men do. WomenOne and other organizations are promoting the education and empowerment of Haitian women and girls.

Women’s Literacy in Haiti

While the average literacy rate is 92% for developing countries in Latin America, Haitian women have a literacy rate of 57%. In comparison, Haitian men have a literacy rate of between 61-64%. Haiti’s Human Development Index (HDI) value of 0.510 in 2019 put the country in the low human development category. Considering this fact, it has been difficult for women to surpass the limitations of inadequate education systems. This is especially true for the 24.7% of the population that live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.25 a day.

Education in Haiti

Due to more than 80% of primary schools being in the private sector, many cannot afford to obtain an education. This is because the Gross National Income per capita is $1,730 in Haiti even though the average for developing countries in Latin America is $14,098.

Moreover, private school fees take up around 15-20% of the household income of the most impoverished 20% of the population and 5-6% in rural areas. This is why the enrollment rate for these schools equates to 57%. Yet, it still decreases to 30% when considering how many Haitian children reach sixth grade. The World Bank reported that in 2013, 50% of Haiti’s youth were not attending school. Furthermore, Haitians who are 25 years or older obtain an average of 4.9 years of education. From this group, only 29% take part in secondary schooling.

Civilians who can afford to receive an education are at a disadvantage when considering the teaching style educators utilize in classrooms. Teaching time consists mainly of memorization and repetition, neglecting the importance of improving critical thinking skills. Additionally, “only about 35% of class time was spent on instruction with all students paying attention.” This average is lower than that of other Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries.


WomenOne is a nonprofit organization founded by Dayle Haddon in 2008 “with the goal of connecting women and girls in need around the world to other women who had the energy and resources to support them: women supporting women.” Haddon especially noted that education is the key to lifting women out of poverty. Haddon specifically cares about education because, through the organization’s research, it was found that “educated mothers are more than twice as likely to send their children to school.” That is why WomenOne worked with buildOn to construct a primary school in Berard, Haiti, in 2015.

Promoting the value of female education, they established that each village in Haiti would have to have an equal enrollment of students of both genders, ensuring equality. BuildOn was extremely supportive in these endeavors, especially after the 2010 earthquake that destroyed the already subpar infrastructure of schools in the country. The natural disaster damaged 5,000 schools, affecting education even further.

BuildOn continues working to rebuild schools, even on its own, especially after the 2016 hurricane that damaged the Les Cayes area.

Through WomenOne’s work, more than 80% of the learners at the schools supported by WomenOne completed a whole year of academic schooling. Moreover, the schools had attendance rates of around 95%.

LIDÉ Haiti

WomenOne and buildOn are not the only nonprofits that are fighting to reform the education system for Haitian women, promoting gender equality in the process. LIDÉ Haiti was established after the 2010 earthquake that struck Haiti, aiming to ensure girls have equal access to education and empower young women to advance and progress.

It specifically focuses on girls between the ages of 11 and 21 that meet a requirement that would consider them at-risk. This criteria includes being out of school, lagging behind in education, living in a rural area affected by extreme poverty and more.

Girls in LIDÈ realize their power and voices through the arts — creative writing, acting, photography and filmmaking. These forms of arts create a gateway into academic education and serve to improve literacy, critical thinking skills and leadership potential.

The Future

Haiti, while a developing country, is making great strides in terms of providing education and empowering Haitian women. Nonprofits such as WomenOne and LIDÉ Haiti fight to ensure gender equality so that women can progress, advance and lift themselves out of poverty.

Sylvia Vivian Boguniecki
Photo: Flickr


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