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International Women’s Day #IWD2015

Marie Gertha Jourdain,  elected official at the county level in the Croix-des-Bouquets

Marie Gertha Jourdain, elected official at the county level in the Croix-des-Bouquets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In her own words: Personal Testimony from a community Leader and elected official in Haiti on how she’s using her own personal power to fight for change

Marie Gertha Jourdain is an elected official at the county level in the Croix-des-Bouquets commune located in Haiti’s West Department. Marie explains how her participation in a leadership training Oxfam hosted for local government leaders gave her the confidence to fight for change and to better understand her own power as a public servant.

Marie Gertha

What motivated you to run for office?

In 2006, I became a county commissioner for one of the districts in the Croix-Des-Bouquets commune. This was the first political office I have ever held. Croix-Des-Bouquets is divided into 10 districts, with a county commissioner representing a different geographical area. At the country level, women make up 30% of the local government positions. Out of the 10 country commissioners, there are only 3 women elected to office.

I was motivated to run for public office because of my strong love for my community and passion for contributing to its development.  Before going into office, I was very involved in a local organization that provided assistance to families unable to pay school registration fees for their children and support to small businesses.

What are some of the challenges that you have faced?  What did you learn from the training?

I am honored to be a public servant. However, at times I feel that my impact has been limited since I have not been able to address all of the issues my community has asked me to resolve.  Throughout my tenure, I did not feel like I understood my power and the types of resources I could use to help move Croix-des-Bouquets forward. I now know how to develop a project for my area to address its pressing development needs.  After participating in the workshop, I felt even more empowered to be a local official.  I have broadened my knowledge and insights on so many topics ranging from local governance, leadership to decentralisation. I learned how to better articulate my role and responsibilities when I speak with my constituents.

While I won’t be able to go door to door and meet with everyone I represent, I take advantage of a meeting or encounter with my constituents to put into practice what I have learned. I speak more confidently when I am interacting with my fellow community members.  But most importantly, the training helped me to realize that as a woman leader, I have the right to participate in decisions that affect the people that I represent.  I try to empower young women by helping them to see their own personal power and to understand that they have the same rights as men.

For instance, I recently met with a constituent in my district to invite her to a meeting. She told me that she could not attend because her husband would not allow her to attend. I took my conversation with her as an opportunity to highlight the importance of taking and making her own decisions. From my own personal experience, I know the issue of rights can be very challenging. When I was pregnant and actively participating in a community organisation, my husband told me that I could not do both- family and continue with my leadership activities. I told him that carrying a child is not a handicap and cannot prevent me from doing activities outside the home.  I chose to be bold and make my own decisions independent of what my husband would tell me to do. By sharing my own personal experiences, I hope to inspire young women so that they too can realize their full potential and assert their own rights.

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