Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What Jared Loughner did--how is that different from what the U.S. military and Corporate Conservative thugs do every day?

mug shot of mass murderer Jared Loughner is from here

If Jared Loughner, a white het male U.S citizen, had successfully entered the U.S. armed services, and had he opened fire on a few Afghan or Iraqi men, raping some women before or after, he might be getting a Congressional Medal of Honor. He wouldn't be considered insane for doing so, and he wouldn't be called "evil". But he didn't. He opposed both U.S. wars as international war crimes according to the articles of the Geneva Convention and he made disrespectful comments about "God". Those are some of our soulless and thoroughly corrupt pro-war mass media's favorite clues that someone might be insane. His whiteness and maleness will not be seen as clues. If he were Black, Muslim, and male, he'd be regarded not as a killer or a gunman, but as a terrorist. It takes a lot for a U.S. white man, Christian or not, to be termed a terrorist. It takes very little for a Black, Brown, or Muslim man to be regarded as such.

The media has a story to tell--a single story, of how GREAT the U.S. is, and how it can overcome adversity, such as threats and overt acts of terrorism it sociopathically doesn't see itself perpetrating. We are reminded of a false truth so often that one has to wonder what would happen if the media stopped pummeling us with this propaganda for even one hour. Here is that simple and false truth: "the U.S. is good".

We are encouraged tonight to "be better" by President Obama. "Only a more civil and honest public discourse" can show respect to the white people who are slain and injured, we are told. Only? "We may not be able to stop evil in the world", the President reminds us, which is coded language meaning, "We might need to war against Asia for another seventy years". How about President Obama, and the Republican-led Houses stopping the mass production of fire arms, weapons of war, the invading and occupying of foreign countries, and the ceasing of training of poor people, disproportionately of color, to be paid and PTSD-afflicted killers for a country as evil as any the Earth has known?

President Obama tells us, "We should do everything we can do to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations!" He is speaking of a kind of false innocence he is assuming children have, willfully ignoring how many children are molested and raped by the age of puberty; ignoring how many children gain access to pornography through their parent's computers, or, in the olden days, through their fathers' pornography magazine collection, never stashed away well enough; ignoring how children absorb early the way their care-givers speak about "immigrants", "foreigners", "enemies", and "terrorists" often pretending the terms are interchangeable. (Never mind that Charles Manson, Timothy McVeigh, M. D. Chapman, and Jared Loughner, and thousands of unnamed rapists of American Indian women are white het men, documented-while-palien U.S. citizens, and killers and terrorists.)

Given that the government and media tell us we should expect to continue to wage war against Black and Brown people, against Asians for the last many decades, against Indigenous people for the last several hundred years, against women across race, through to this day and well into tomorrow.

A few white people lost their lives and others were seriously injured. My heart goes out to the loved ones, family and friends, of those who were hurt or killed by Jared Loughner, including federal judge John Roll, 63; and Christina Taylor Green, age 9 (born Sept. 11, 2001), a softball player invited along to the meeting as a treat by a neighbor; Rep. Giffords' aide Gabe Zimmerman, 30; Dorothy Murray, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Scheck, 79.

One person almost lost her life because she was a woman with some pro-woman political stances, such as being pro-Choice: defending the rights of individual women to determine whether or not they may seek and obtain an abortion to terminate an welcomed pregnancy, including those unwelcomed by a brother or father's incest and a boyfriend or husband's rape. Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords will be in the news as a survivor of a "lone wolf" madman, but the media won't focus on the mass murderer as a white het male misogynist or anti-feminist who specifically wanted the "b-word" to "die", and who was frustrated about his dating life. He won't be called "white" and "heterosexual" because those terms don't carry stigma in the U.S. Instead, he'll be called "a troubled young man" who occupied "a very dark world". "Dark" is the important term, as it reinforces whiteness and lightness as good, and blackness and darkness with evil.

What the corporate media won't tell you is that Jared Loughner's personality was not quite as sociopathic as any U.S. mega-corporations's practices and that of their CEOs and COOs, the U.S. military's leaders and operations, or the long-standing personality of the U.S. government. For more, please see The Corporation.

What the U.S. media exists to do is NOT focus on THE PROBLEM, and instead distract us from THE PROBLEM with relatively minor--however tragic and horrific--incidents. That over a half of a million Haitians have been injured or killed since the White-Man-Made disaster one year ago. You'd think the on-going crisis would warrant more air-time today than what happened in Tucson, AZ.

But one white person, especially if U.S. (and especially if male), has always been worth more than a few dozen thousand lives of people of color. Just note how we regard white U.S. soldiers who die, compared to Central Asian women who die in our gendered and raced wars against them, to occupy and control their land the way white het men seek to occupy and control women across race and region.

How many times has the news media alerted us, regionally or nationally, of a new U.S. casualty of one of our corrupt, racist, empire-strengthening wars against Asia? How many deaths of individuals from Iraq or Afghanistan--non-combatants, civilians, children, women, men, have we heard reported as if their lives matters as much as one U.S. rich white het man? When will those wealthy Corporate Conservative Christian white men stop  committing evil against women and children, globally, including by not doing a damn thing to end human trafficking or poverty?

I am listening to a president speak who will never admit to the sociopathic horrors he oversees, who predicts all evil to continue. He and the newly elected Republican thugs will continue to protect and defend U.S. and Western white het male supremacy, the white right to commit genocide and men's right to rape women, in part through corporately controlled exploitation and possession of women-as-sexxx-things. He and the elected Democrats and Republicans to both Houses will continue to perpetrate this and more atrocity by any means necessary. This will not be reported to you on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox, or Comedy Central.

There has never been anything civil about what the U.S. government and corporate media do to poor people of color, globally. The U.S. media and military's leaders and spokespeople have never been honest about what the U.S. government and giant corporations exist to do. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians died and continue to die, Haitian and non-Haitian women are raped and continue to be raped, because of the past and present actions of the U.S. government, European governments, and white male capitalist pimps and greed-mongers. Let's start with that bit of honesty and see if we can "be better".

Questions and Challenges to my Gay Siblings who work for Social Change: What is your level of accountability to Radical Lesbian Feminists? What work do you do to Challenge and Reduce Male Supremacy?

herstorical archival image is from here
I predict that in time the L of LGBT GLBT will slip to last place. Why? Because the concerns of women have never been made central in any organisation of which men are a part, especially a founding or controlling part. I predict that "lesbian" will continue to become a taboo word, not that it was ever not one. I predict that trans, queer, and gay rights will become promoted and funded inside and outside the Academy and media, and lesbian rights will be increasingly under-funded and decentralised, and will (continue to) be made to seem like it is only an anti-trans, anti-gay, anti-queer idea. Specifically in the Academy, I predict Women's Studies programs will decrease as Gender and Sexuality Studies programs increase. And that Gender and Sexuality Studies programs will increasingly marginalise "male supremacy" and "patriarchal atrocity" as horrific realities worth studying, let alone doing anything significant to end.

We carry some insufficiently challenged ideas in the queer communities of which I am a part. Among those is this: gay men will always work with het men to obtain their rights. This is understood to be necessary and "sensible", practical, pragmatic. We will not sufficiently question how and in what ways gay, trans, and queer activists work with racist heteropatriarchal institutions and industries to promote liberal, reformist civil rights to the dominant society, while largely ignoring radical, revolutionary change. And when lesbian women work with heterosexual and bisexual women, they will be called out for being anti-queer. But they gay men will get to go on working with het men, few questions asked.

Gay men will not likely challenge this. Gay men, historically, have found gender to be something to play with, to bend, blend, appropriate, and to transgress. Lesbians, like all women, have, herstorically, found gender something to survive.

The less privileges one has, the more perilous "gender" is. In other posts here I have analysed the levels of privilege found among white gay, bisexual, and trans males, and also some white lesbians too, who ceaselessly speak for all of our people but too often speak of promoting white supremacy, consciously or not and not hardly ever admitting to doing so.

A question for now is this: when "Our Queer Politics" are promoted, how much white, classed, and male supremacy is loaded into the agendas and actions? How acceptable is it to ignore what men do to women, across race, class, and sexuality?

With most questions unasked and unanswered, we are left to witness both dominant and non-dominant social shifts toward an increasingly anti-woman Queer political theory and practice. When this is noted, and because women are so devalued already as a group, the women who raise these concerns are called names designed to silence them. Their voices are not heard.

The importance of lesbian feminism is the importance of women's human rights, across race, class, region, and sexuality. The ignorance of lesbian feminism, and the social-surgical removal of it from the queer body politic, will and already has resulted in an impotent social change movement. There is, as far as I can determine, no revolutionary, radical "queer" agenda that is not linked up with others on the Left--the Left that is and always has been male-led and male-ruled.

What was unique, for me, about radical lesbian feminist politics was that it had, in its heart, a radical and revolutionary vision to end manhood as a system of power (and not, as so many white het men irrationally and histerically fear, to end the existence of men-as-human beings). It had a practice of putting women at the center of each and every point of discussion and analysis, because otherwise women will fall back and outside the circles of concern.

What is the society contemporary U.S. Queer activists are working for? Is it patriarchally and racistly capitalist? Is it as gynocidal and genocidal as the one we now live in? What is the means, the route, by which Queer activists will challenge and eradicate male supremacy from society?

While in the last couple of years I have seen a re-emergence of radical feminism, including radical lesbian feminism, across class, race, region, I have also seen this accomplished against great odds. Feminist bloggers have been terrorised, for example. I know of no such acts of terrorism leveled systematically against gay bloggers who are anti-feminist or who ignore women's threatened humanity generally. I have seen a huge increase in Queer blogs and social spaces, particularly in cities and academies, wherein the political group "women" is, in and of itself, under attack by ridiculously applied post-modern theories.

No where is radical lesbian feminism embraced as crucial and critically necessary if it isn't radical lesbian women promoting their work and values.

The current state of affairs is that women who are radical feminists are once again targeted as "bigots" primarily, not human rights activists. Men have never done anything but identify feminists as something fundamentally negative, dangerous, and disgusting. Now it is white-dominated Queer culture that hates on women in part by ignoring women, claiming women are hating on queers. The critics of women cite only on a few women who express ideas that can only be processed by pro-queer activists as "anti-man, anti-queer, and anti-trans". The identification of radical feminist activism and activists is intentionally biased in favor of noting where and when some radical lesbian feminists criticise trans politics--assumptions, theories, practices, and actions--wherein it is deemed pro-woman to promote the idea that women can be surgically constructed if "the psyche" is already that of a woman.

Let's remember that it has been radical feminists, lesbian and not, who have argued that female people who seek to have gendered surgeries to produce "woman parts" do not become "more female or more womanly" as a result of having surgery performed; they resist putting into the hands of surgeons, and the medical establishment generally, any power to give gendered status or stigma to women.

This medical-surgical intervention against female bodies has sometimes been reconstructive, such as following disease, illness, injuries, and surgeries to one's breasts, vulva, and other sexual organs. Sometimes the surgeries are simply destructive, such as when sexual organ-removal procedures are done systematically and without medical benefit to control women's capacities to either reproduce or experience sexual arousal. We know that white male doctors in North America, for example, have a horrid history of removing from women their uteruses, ovaries, and other reproductive organs. We know that girl children who are intersex are often surgically disfigured and sexually disabled because doctors convince parents it will be better for the children to grow up that way: disfigured and disabled.  Nowhere do radical feminists argue that female and intersex human beings become "more womanly" as a result of such surgical interventions, even when argued by the privileged people who support them being "necessary" and "life-enhancing".

It is radical feminists, lesbian and not, who have held up for scrutiny issues of objectification and fetishisation of body parts, including the genitals, not gay men, not bi men, and not het men.

It is radical feminists, lesbian and not, who have challenged the male supremacy which inheres in every social and psychic sphere of existence that is touched or ruled by patriarchal societies.

It is radical feminists, lesbian and not, who seek to understand how child sexual abuse constructs dominant sexuality, not gay men, bi men, or het men.

It has been radical feminists, lesbian or not, who have challenged the right of men to rape anyone and everyone as they wish with no accountability to the terrorised classes. Activist men as a group, across any political spectrums, have not done this work and continue not to do it. Rape is ignored by men as a political issue of outright terrorism and inhumane social subjugation. In my experience, men across sexuality ridicule and pathologise people who speak too much against rape if the raped people being supported are female-not-male. Such activists, in my experience, are treated as if the problem of rape is that survivor of it haven't gotten over it--the individual rape or rapes, singularly or gang-perpetrated, familial or committed by acquaintances or strangers. The rapes and the survivors are tossed back onto the social heap of the "anecdotally afflicted".

It is radical feminists, lesbian and not, who have taken seriously the aftermath of sexual trauma, who write about triggering and dissociation related to surviving sexual and gender-based assaults and generalised gendered conditioning.

It has been radical feminists, lesbian and not, who have challenged as harmful and misogynistic, and also racist and classist, the industries and institutions like pornography and prostitution, while liberal men and women seek to protect the systems that make sex-slavers, traffickers, and pimps rich.

It is radical feminists, lesbian and not, who have fought for decades to challenge militarism and marriage, not to make these institutions of gross misogyny and racism "more accommodating" to gay, bi, and lesbian people.

Pick an area of human social and psychic life in the West and beyond and you will find thorough, thoughtful analysis--questioning and answering, as well as confronting and challenging, of the patriarchal systems and male supremacist structures which inhere in them.

From male Queer and Gay activists I ask: What is your plan or practice for removing male supremacy and patriarchal imperatives and mandates from our societies? How do you currently expose and challenge these oppressive and lethal dimensions of our lives? Where and when do you center the analysis of radical lesbian feminists in your work? Can you direct me to this work that males and men are doing, as a group, currently, anywhere in the world?

Even while radical feminists have always been of color, "radical feminism" is written off by white men and men of color, gay, bi, and het, as "white and racist", effectively invisibilising the work of radical women of color, however they identify.

Even while radical feminists have always been het, bisexual, and lesbian, it is assumed that radical feminism is only lesbian. This is not done to compliment the work; it is done to demean and denigrate it.

Lesbian and woman-loving women have worked on behalf of all women in the same way that gay and SGL men have worked on behalf of all men. The significant difference is that lesbians' political work, when feminist, has been anti-status quo, anti-racist, and anti-patriarchal. Meanwhile, gay men's activism--which has never been pro-feminist or respectful of women (except anecdotally), has been pro-status quo and pro-patriarchal.

I welcome gay men of conscience and courage, across race, region, and class, engaging with me here on these and related issues.

Haiti: One Year After The White-Man-Made Disaster

photo: ©2010 Randall White. This image is from the Haitian Action Network report linked to below

Not many news sites will report to you the extent to which everything that happened on Haiti one year ago was a production called "The White Man's Terror". It stars lots of white men, from Europe and the U.S., some of them colonists, some of them CEOs, some of them former U.S. presidents. The people who will always suffer most at the hands of any atrocity constructed by the White Man is women of color. And so it is in Haiti. Below is a sampling of news stories out in the last 24 hours, explaining aspects of the situation there now. The reports, in order, are from The Haitian Action Network, The New Black Man, Amnesty International/Canada, and The I did my best to ignore news from the U.S., which only ever wants to tell you how GREAT the U.S. is, despite the fact that they are a "Lone Wolf" of terroristic evil on Earth.

I choose to remember, on this day, especially, the deaths of three feminists: Women's rights activists Myriam Merlet, Magalie Marcelin, and Anne Marie Coriolan. For more on each of these women, please see this report from Chicago NOW*here*.

By Bill Quigley and Jeena Shah

BAI - Port au Prince, Haiti — One year after the January 12 2010 earthquake, more than a million people remain homeless in Haiti. Homemade shelters and tents are everywhere in Port au Prince. People are living under plastic tarps or sheets in concrete parks, up to the edge of major streets, in the side streets, behind buildings, in between buildings, on the sides of hills, literally everywhere.

UNICEF estimates that more than 1 million people – 380,000 of them children – still live in displacement camps.
"The recovery process" as UNICEF says, "is just beginning."

One of the critical questions is how many people remain without adequate housing. While there are fewer big camps of homeless and displaced people, there has been extremely little rebuilding. The UN reported that 97,000 tents have been provided since the quake. Tents are an improvement over living under a sheet but they are not homes. Many families have lived many places in the last year circulating from rough shelters to tents to camps to other camps to living alongside other families.

It is important to understand that families may leave the huge unsupervised camps and still be homeless someplace else – like a tent in another part of the city or country. Moving from one type of homelessness to another cannot be allowed to be declared progress against homelessness and displacement.

The key human rights goal is housing, not moving out of the displacement camps.

One illustration of the housing challenge facing the Haitian people can be found in a recent report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The IOM December report announced a reduction in the number of persons remaining in displacement camps. The IOM then wrongly concluded that the number of people displaced and homeless was reduced accordingly. Why is this conclusion wrong? Because the IOM report does not even try to track where displaced persons go after they leave a particular camp. They equate homeless families moving out of displacement camps as families finding housing.

These types of erroneous conclusions are not only misleading but threaten to hinder badly needed relief efforts one year after Haiti's devastating earthquake.

Careful consideration of the IOM report provides an opportunity to examine some of the many important housing challenges still facing Haitians.

IOM Assertion: "We finally start to see light at the end of the tunnel for the earthquake-affected population…these are hopeful signs that many victims of the quake are getting on with their lives." IOM reported there has been a 31% decrease in the number of internally displaced people living on IDP sites in Haiti since July.

Fact: Getting on with their lives? Of an estimated 1,268 displacement camps, at least 29% have been forcibly closed – meaning tens of thousands of people have been evicted, often through violent means. Many who are forcibly evicted from one site move on to set up camp for their families in another location, which is often more dangerous. This is not getting on with life; this is searching for less dangerous places for the family tent.

IOM Assertion: People with houses labeled red (uninhabitable or extremely dangerous) or yellow (in need of repair) have "chosen to return to the place of origin or nearby to establish a shelter."

Fact: As of December 16, 2010, only 2,074 of the estimated 180,000 destroyed houses had been repaired and a small percentage of rubble had been cleared. Decisions by desperate homeowners to move back into still destroyed homes is hardly progress.

It is also not even possible for large numbers of people who were renters to return to their destroyed homes. The destruction of more than 180,000 private residences coupled with influx of international aid workers has made Haiti's rental market soar. An estimated 80% of those rendered homeless by the earthquake were renters or occupiers of homes without any formal land title. Current rents are unreachable by the majority of displaced Haitians, many of whom who lost their means of livelihood during the earthquake. The IOM admits "The lack of land tenure and the destruction of many houses in already congested slums left many of those displaced with few options but to remain in shelters."

IOM Assertion: "Some households rendered homeless after the earthquake left congested Port au Prince all-together going home to the regions. Others sent their children to the countryside for a better life."

Fact: Rural Haiti before the earthquake was home to 52% of the population, 88% of which was poor and 67% was extremely poor. Rural residents had a per capita income one third of the income of people living in urban areas and extremely limited access to basic services. Disaster response following the earthquake has not tackled the extreme structural violence that exists in rural areas, and Hurricane Tomas further destroyed livelihoods of rural communities. People moving from displacement camps in the city to living in a tent in the countryside have not really moved out of homelessness, they have just moved.

IOM Assertion: "Surviving in poor living conditions during the long hurricane season has persuaded many to seek alternative housing solutions."

Fact: Homeless people are always seeking "alternative housing solutions." Camp conditions even before Hurricane Tomas and the cholera outbreak revealed that displaced Haitians were in camps because they had no "alternative housing solutions."

According to a study conducted by CUNY Professor Mark Schuller before both Hurricane Tomas and the outbreak of cholera:
40% of displacement camps did not have access to water;
30% did not have toilets of any kind;
10% of families even had a tent, many of which were ripped beyond repair during the hurricane season; the rest were sleeping under tarps or even bed sheets.
A study conducted even earlier by the Institute of Justice & Democracy in Haiti found that:
78% of families lived without enclosed shelter;
44% of families primarily drank untreated water;
27% of families defecated in a container, a plastic bag, or on open ground in the camps;
75% of families had someone go an entire day without eating during one week
and over 50% had children who did not eat for an entire day.
Human rights promise housing, not just forcing people away from displacement camps. Haiti needs practical and sustainable solutions for re-housing along with services and protections for the people still homeless.
One year later, it is critically important for the international community to assist Haitians to secure real housing. The million homeless Haitians and the hundreds of thousands who have moved out of the large homeless camps into other areas are our sisters and brothers and still need our solidarity and help.

Bill is Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans and a long-time Haiti advocate. Jeena Shah is a lawyer serving in Port au Prince as a Lawyers' Earthquake Response Network Fellow with the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Contact Bill at and Jeena
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Haiti: Where Did the Money Go?

In January 2010, a 7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti. The international community, including one out of two Americans, pledged billions of dollars in aid, yet the nation has seen little improvement. Three hundred thousand died, nearly two million live in ramshackle tent cities. Cholera has swept through the population, killing thousands and hospitalizing many others. Only about 2% of the rubble has been cleared.

Is this what you expected when you pledged your aid dollars? Independent journalists journeyed to Haiti in November 2010 to see the situation for themselves, and dig into the burning question: what happened to all that money?

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Amnesty International and Women's Human Rights

Amnesty International regularly documents a range of violations of women’s human rights through reports, news releases, public statements, and letter writing actions. We work with women human rights advocates and like-minded organizations to encourage governments to enforce women’s human rights as defined in various international and regional human rights standards. This blog covers the full range Amnesty's concerns in the arena of human rights for women, including sexual and reproductive rights; violence in armed conflict, the community and the home; women human rights defenders; and protection of women’s economic, social and cultural rights.

Haiti: Sexual violence against women increasing

Posted by: Lindsay Mossman
Women and girls living in Haiti’s makeshift camps face an increasing risk of rape and sexual violence, Amnesty International said in a new report released today.

One year after the earthquake which killed 230,000 people and injured 300,000, more than one million people still live in appalling conditions in tent cities in the capital Port-au-Prince and in the south of Haiti, where women are at serious risk of sexual attacks. Those responsible are predominately armed men who roam the camps after dark.

More than 250 cases of rape in several camps were reported in the first 150 days after January’s earthquake, according to data cited in the Amnesty International report, Aftershocks: Women speak out against sexual violence in Haiti’s camps.

One year on, rape survivors continue to arrive at the office of a local women’s support group almost every other day.

Read the News Release

Read the Report

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Haiti one year on: put communities at the heart of reconstruction

Haiti's earthquake drew emergency help from the charity Article 25, but its architects' main focus is finding permanent solutions

Haiti rubble
Haitian children are seen amid the rubble in Port-au-Prince, a year after the earthquake. Photograph: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

One year on from the devastating earthquake of January 2010, millions in Haiti are still struggling to meet their most basic needs. With food and water in short supply in the 1,300 temporary camps, serious threats to women's safety widely reported, and cholera having left its mark on an already dire public health situation, architectural solutions may seem low on the list of priorities.
But earthquakes in Chile and New Zealand in the same year are two illustrations that it's not earthquakes that kill people, it's buildings. Despite both measuring higher on the Richter scale than the Haitian quake, intelligent design and safer construction minimised the death tolls in Chile and New Zealand. Article 25, the UK's leading built environment charity, promotes the idea that when we build back in Haiti, we must build back better. Architecture is, as our trustee Lord Foster testifies, "a necessity and not a luxury".
Working with our partner Outreach International, Article 25 is breaking ground on the repair and reconstruction of dozens of schools, reinstating education as a driver for overcoming the trauma of the quake for hundreds of Haiti's children. On the ground for almost a year, Article 25 immediately adopted a long term approach, driven by the belief that without ensuring a sense of permanence in the relief stage, Haitians would remain trapped in a crippling state of dependency. Article 25 sees permanence as intrinsic to genuine recovery.
Our project in Pakistan that trained locals to build seismic-resistant housing within 100 days is an example of how disaster response does not have to adhere to the typical model of sticks and tarpaulin, buffeted by trickling aid agency provision. Following Pakistan's 2005 earthquake, Article 25 worked with communities to build prototype homes using locally sourced materials, designed to withstand future earthquakes. Through effective on-the-job training in construction techniques, locals are still building Article 25 houses, years after the training was completed. In this way, locals are transforming a relief-stage solution into a permanent one.
This experience proves that community participation is at the heart of sustainability in reconstruction projects. By placing local communities at the centre of the decision-making process, Article 25 leaves a community empowered and equipped with the necessary skills to rebuild and maintain their own environment. Article 25's work in Haiti over the past year has included a strong emphasis on community participation, using workshops to diagnose a long list of needs and encourage the community to prioritise those needs. These workshops help parents, staff and children become aware of the strengths and challenges of their existing education infrastructure, and to choose what is most important to them. Asking the community to establish their own needs and preferences means donor money makes the biggest difference on the ground.
With Article 25 staff as facilitators, workshops have included "problem trees", where communities are encouraged to dig deeper and recognise the root causes of problems. What has emerged is that shelter for displaced people, improved nutrition and health, more classrooms, and subsidised school supplies are key collective priorities. These issues are laid out in a "ranking exercise" in which communities asked to vote for the three issues they believed were of highest significance. A lunch programme emerged as the first priority for all participants, with internet access a close second. In a country where just 11% of the population are reported to have internet access, this is a clear sign from the next generation that they want to be better connected.
While the developed world has argued over the right solutions for Haiti over the past year, Haitians have too often been left out of the debate. Our workshop results show the people of Haiti themselves are aware of a lifeline: internet access could empower them with knowledge and and make their views heard. The Observer's recent suggestion box scheme is one that has facilitated exactly that. Recognising that local communities hold the knowledge of vernacular techniques allows a design to develop which becomes more powerful than a building. As a community member commented following an Article 25 workshop: "Thank you for coming to our village: you gave the community a voice."
Oxfam recently called the efforts of the government and international community a "quagmire of indecision and delay". Article 25 finds that only by harnessing local knowledge can we cut through the "quagmire" and make sustainable progress. By placing community participation and capacity building at the crux of reconstruction in Haiti, Article 25 ensures it is the people of Haiti who are becoming the authors of a safer, more sustainable future. It is critical that this kind of work in Haiti continues long after the journalists have gone home, and that we stay with this programme as long as it takes to help Haitians lift themselves out of paralysis and build back better.
• Robin Cross is CEO and Director of Projects, Article 25.