Building blocks for women’s empowerment in Haiti

  • Date: 11/07/2023
  • Author: Jo-Ann Ward

Over the last number of years, Haiti has experienced a succession of shocks that have made life extremely difficult for families. Women in Léon, Haiti, are leading the ongoing humanitarian response through an innovative business supported by ActionAid.

The Haiti earthquake

The earthquake in August 2021 destroyed 130,000 homes and left at least 4.4 million people facing food insecurity. Part of the reason why so many homes were destroyed and damaged is that they weren’t built to respond to earthquakes and were not made from good quality materials, such as blocks. In times of crisis like this, women in particular face violence and increased insecurity. Additionally, 23% of women lost their jobs.

In Léon, a community of about 1,500 people, people were travelling two hours to reach the outskirts of the city of Jérémie to find blocks to build homes or rebuild following a disaster. The cost of travel had added to the price of each block, doubling the cost to build a home. As a result, people were often using rocks and mud which could be deadly during seismic activity.

Women’s empowerment through a block factory

And so, ActionAid established a concrete block factory run by women – the first type of its kind in the area. Fifteen women from the local community organisation, Fanm Konba, were given the initial materials and trained by a civil engineer to build high quality blocks. The aim was to provide jobs for local women and to encourage women to enter in the construction field, usually a male-dominated sector in Haiti. The cement block factory is the first and only block making factory in the community of Léon. The blocks are for sale in the local area to help families build safer homes that are resistant to shocks and earthquakes.

Maud, Fanm Konba coordinator and block workshop worker said: “The first minute we launched, people started to ask for blocks. There is also a school that they plan to build soon, and they are starting to ask us for service. Fanm Konba will get to produce blocks for a school, that’s unbelievable.

This is a huge step for the community, and a big step for the organization, we are serving our community”

In humanitarian situations, ActionAid promotes women’s empowerment though women-led, sustainable and transformative interventions, whilst focusing on addressing need and providing protection. The block building project is an example of this work in action. The project was managed by ActionAid Haiti and funded from a grant received by ElectricAid Ireland and ActionAid Ireland supporters.

Photo credit: Maud, Fanm Konba coordinator and block workshop worker pictured in Léon, Haiti.

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