Friday, March 11, 2016

International Women's Day

International Women’s Day

It is Women’s Day.    Partners in Health makes large, plastic banners, in partnership with the health department and displays them in front of buildings and strings them across the street.    The women carrying food to market, unable to read, pass beneath them.  Young girls herd goats or carry water; unable to pay the tuition for school.   It’s Women’s Day in Haiti.

At the hospital a fourteen year old is diagnosed with HIV, syphilis, genital warts and possibly TB.   She is pregnant and wearing a nightgown that hangs from her shoulders in shreds.    They have discharged her because she has a cough and they believe it is TB.  They won’t treat the HIV or syphilis because she is alone, without family.  That is the rule.   After being discharged, she sleeps on a hospital bench so she wll not be raped again and again. 

It's Women's Day in Haiti

I do not give up.  

Anyone who might help me is at the Women’s Day Party, across the parking lot.   They have bright new t-shirts and are being given lunch.    The maternal health wing staff have migrated over there.   We buy her food and a Tampico and water.  

I am told that if she had TB, maybe they would let her sleep over there.  But, sad to say, there are no more TB tests.  I walk out back and find one and she spits into cups.  If she has TB, we can get her a bed and perhaps treatment for her HIV and syphilis and a safe place to sleep. 

It’s Women’s Day in Haiti, so it is a hard problem to solve. People are busy. I do not want a t-shirt. I want a bed for this young, sick girl.  They say she is not sick.  I say she has HIV, syphilis, was raped, is pregnant and possibly has TB.  How sick does one does have to get.   Oh and genital warts and severe malnutrition.  

“She is crazy.”  

“Maybe we’d all be crazy if we were raped and dumped in a strange town.”   

The translator looks up and says,  “Welcome to Haiti.”   Now can she go and get her free t-shirt. 

Finally, it is agreed that she can sleep on the triage table in a hall for a few hours.   We settle her in and put a portable curtain I dig out of a supply room, around her. 

Wen I return to check on her, she is gone.  I panic, but  then there  she is braiding someone’s hair in the soft, afternoon sunlight.    She has nothing but the shopping bag we have filled with a few items but still she offers to do what women do – braid each other’s hair. 

I watch this single, powerful act of solidarity.  I watch her divide her new friends hair into small strands and twist and turn and braid.  I watch this powerful act of sisterhood; this powerful act of belonging. 

It’s Women’s Day in Haiti.
I watch this single, powerful act of solidarity.  I watch her divide her new friends hair into small strands and twist and turn and braid.  I watch this powerful act of sisterhood; this powerful act of belonging.  

It’s Women’s Day in Haiti.

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