MONTREAL — Haitian-born governor general Michaelle Jean will mark International Women’s Day on Monday in Haiti, as the impoverished nation struggles to rebuild two months after a crippling earthquake.
“We know that the island is experiencing terrible suffering, not only because of the earthquake, but also because of the poverty, which was already endemic before the disaster,” Jean said in a statement ahead of her three-day trip, which will include a visit to the neighboring Dominican Republic.
“In these situations of crisis and destabilization, women continue to look after the needs of their children and their loved ones.
“This year, International Women’s Day will be even more moving for me, because I will be by the side of those Haitian women who are striving to recover from disaster and rebuild.”
In a separate statement on her blog, Jean said she was “expecting to see the worst when I get there. However, I feel I must go to meet those who are working so hard to rebuild Haiti.”
Canada’s first black governor general, Jean was born in Port-au-Prince in 1957 and spent her childhood summers in the coastal town of Jacmel. She and her family fled Papa Doc Duvalier’s regime when she was 11 years old.
Jean is scheduled to meet President Rene Preval and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, along with non-profit groups her two-day stop in her homeland.
She will “engage the Haitian authorities and civil society groups as central players in a long-term, sustainable strategy for reconstruction and development of Haiti,” the statement said.
Jean’s trip comes on the heels of Canadian Defense Minister Peter Mackay’s weekend visit to Haiti, where Canada has more than 1,500 troops on the ground. Mackay met with soldiers involved in aid efforts, and visited medical facilities in the country.
On Wednesday, Jean will hold talks with Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez.