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AREA Project Holds Conference with Aim of Empowering New Generation of Haitian Women

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, July 9, 2019 — Women play an increasingly vital role in Haiti’s economy and are engaged in all aspects of the all-important agricultural sector, which employs the majority of women and accounts for one-quarter of country’s gross domestic product.

But researchers say a “gender gap” limits women’s contributions and, consequently, the productivity of Haiti’s agricultural economy. That’s because women have less access to financing, land and other resources, plus fewer opportunities to assume community leadership roles.

To help address such disparities, the Feed the Future Haiti Appui à la Recherche et au Développement Agricole, or AREA project, today kicked off a professional development conference aimed at advancing the careers of women enrolled at seven agricultural institutions of higher education in Haiti. More than 150 young women attended the first day of the two-day event held at the Karibe Convention Center in Port-au-Prince.

One of the more than 150 women college students asks a question during the first day of the women's conference.

One of the more than 150 Haitian women college students at the conference asks a question on the morning of the first day of activities.

The main objective of the training is to advance the success of women in the fields of agriculture and address food security, improve their ability to find employment and, ideally, serve in leadership positions. “Our goal is to not only help these talented women gain meaningful employment but to contribute to improving Haiti’s agricultural system,” said Christelle Calixte, gender specialist for the AREA project, which incorporates women in all of its activities with the aim of empowering women and achieving gender parity.

“These women are the future of our agriculture and Haiti needs agriculture to thrive,” Calixte said. “We believe that women can bridge the gap that exists in agriculture if they are properly integrated and appreciated in the field.”

“These women are the future of our agriculture and Haiti needs agriculture to thrive. We believe that women can bridge the gap in agriculture if they are properly integrated and appreciated…”

USAID Haiti Mission Director Gary Juste

USAID Haiti Mission Director Gary Juste said a new generation of women can make an impact to improve Haiti’s agricultural sector.

In his opening remarks, USAID Haiti Mission Director Gary Juste looked out at the audience of young women and  said they represented Haiti’s newest generation of women scholars, researchers, agronomists, policymakers, and leaders. He said they can make an impact to improve Haiti’s agricultural sector and lessen the country’s food insecurity burden.

Others who will speak or lead training sessions over the two days: university scholars, including Haiti native and University of Miami Professor Guerda Nicolas who wrote a book “Social Networks and the Mental Health of Haitian Immigrants”; career development specialists; and Haitian women entrepreneurs and agricultural sector leaders. These include Alice Nkunzimana, founder of the management consulting firm Papryus S.A., Viviane Julien, vice dean of the the University of Quisqueya’s College of Agriculture, and Rachelle Pierre Louis, technical coordinator at the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture’s operation in Haiti.

Panelists Alice Nkunzimana, Viviane Julien, Nadia Cherrouk (left to right) address what Haitian employers are looking for.

Panelists Alice Nkunzimana, Viviane Julien, Nadia Cherrouk (left to right) address what Haitian employers are looking for.

Cynthia Hight, an academic adviser in the University of Florida’s Agronomy Department, and Matt Mitterko, UF associate director of graduate international outreach, will offer guidance on applying to graduate schools, crafting effective essays and resumes, and lead interactive self-evaluation exercises. “We are presenting strategies for graduate studies, regardless of institution that might appeal to them, and encouraging these young women to take steps to realize their career dreams,” Hight said.

The conference agenda also includes sessions to help the women explore careers in agriculture, prepare for job interviews, network, develop a personal brand, negotiate salaries and understand the value of mentoring.

“Most importantly, perhaps, they will be inspired by case studies of successful women who achieved a lot at a time there were often greater challenges than today,” Calixte said. “The overall message they will receive is: if they could overcome obstacles to succeed then I can too.”