Celebrating the International Day of the Girl in Haiti
By Tara Mulder, Grace Community Birth Center
Today, International Day of the Girl, complications from pregnancy remain the leading killer of girls ages 15–19. In Haiti, about 14% of girls this age are already pregnant or have children. Many girls experience violence and sexual abuse: about 70% of girls and women have been exposed to some sort of violence.
At Grace Community Birth Center in Grand Bassin, Terrier Rouge, in northeast Haiti, midwife Ninotte Lubin works with adolescent girls and young women, teaching them about their bodies through comprehensive sex education, organizing crafting workshops, and distributing cloth menstrual kits in coordination with Days for Girls.
Ninotte is a Certified Professional Midwife who trained for five years with midwives in Haiti and the United States before achieving certification with the North American Registry of Midwives in 2015. Since that time, she has been working to develop a three-acre plot of donated land into a fully functional birth and community education center. So far, the property has a well, a covered educational facility, an extensive garden (with peanuts, plantains, beans, moringa trees, lemon and orange trees, cherry trees, and coconut trees), and twenty-five bee hives.
Ninotte currently conducts prenatal and post-partum visits for pregnant women, but the main focus of her work thus far has been on the educational program for girls aged 13–20, in response to requests from the community to help its adolescent girls.
Since January 2017, Ninotte has been teaching sexual education classes to groups of 70–90 girls twice a month. In the classes she covers topics such as the female reproductive system, nutrition and teen health, identification and prevention of sexually transmitted infections, teen pregnancy, healthy relationships, and sexual and intimate partner violence.
As of June 2018, Ninotte has also been coordinating crafting workshops, where the girls learn skills and create products that they can sell. These workshops give value and enrichment to the girls’ lives and help to discourage them from falling into prostitution, which is very common among this age group.
In partnership with Days for Girls, Ninotte has also distributed nearly 100 cloth menstrual kits, which help the girls to go about their daily lives including school and work without interruption from their menstrual cycles. Without the kits many of these girls would use any piece of cloth or rag they find to deal with their period, without concern for hygiene and their own health. The kits, and the education that Ninotte provides along with them, encourage the girls to take care of themselves and to practice healthy habits.
Grace Community Birth Center is currently raising funds to build their birth center, where Ninotte and other midwives will be able to hold prenatal and postpartum visits and deliver babies, and continue working with adolescent girls, to help ensure they have a bright and health future.
Tara Mulder is on the Board of Grace Community Birth Center.