Nicole Siméon, Journalist.
Léone, Danise, Nadine, Carline and Nadège are young ladies today. They try to regain a normal life after they have lined for several years in the street. Thanks to the intervention of CAFA (Centre d’Action Familiale) founded in July 1996 by Madam Kettlie Marseille, they said goodbye to this way of life.
As best they can, they have been taken into care by the programmes of CAFA. But, how long will we be there, they wonder? For adults and, mothers for two ( 2 ) of them, they no longer can be dependent on the scanty budget of CAFA. Divided between the relief to leave the street and the apprehension about a future which is not quite certain, these five (5) young ladies talk about their past in the street, the reasons why they lived there and also they talk about their hope.
Léone is eighteen (18) years old now : I found myself in the street because I accepted to be convainced by a friend of mine when I was ten ( 10 ) years old at that time.
I used to sell small sachets packeging in the street with my mother before that period.
When I met this girl, I made friend with her, the she proposed me to come with her. She had taken me to Delmas V around “L’Eglise Saint Yves” (Saint Yves Church. Then, I had to wander from “Avenue Haïlé Selassié” (commonly called “Carrefour de l’aéroport”) through Delmas II and then finally at Champ de Mars. I could never sniff thinner but smoked cracks and other hard drugs.
At Champ de Mars, I found Maguy, a social worker who had taken me to CAFA. I had quit going to school very early and I have had a child who died fifteen (15 ) months later.Now, thanks to CAFA, I have returned to school (evening classes) at Saint François d’Assise. I am in grade one now. Today my mother has died. My father lives in Artibonite but I don’t know him. I have a boyfriend who doesn’t live in the street”.
Nadège is eighteen ( 18 ) years old :” I used to leave at Cité Soleil, I have been taken to the street because of the situation of conflict which was rampant in this area, what we call gangs war. The events surpassed me. I new some young girls who were raped just because they lived in a certain neighborhood or because they refused the advances of a “Chimè” (Nickname given to the armed political activists who claim to be the followers of Lavalas Power ).
“For fear of being victimized, I also left the quarter and I found myself back in the street where after all I found a certain peace of mind. It’s clear, in the street as soon as one of us is the girlfriend of one of the boys, we feel easy in mind. At the beginning, when we arrive, we must be kind, if not, we are beaten, sometimes raped. In that case the protector, of course, becomes the boyfriend “.
Danise tells her life story : “ I used to live also in Cité Soleil with my sister and the father of my child and I was always very fear, too many conflicts, too many murders. I left then because I could not put up with the situation.
I decided to go to the town while I didn’t know anybody there. I met there a young girl who took me along with her into the life in the street, from a neighborhood to another one. Some of us give ourselves to the prostitution. I met a man at Champ de Mars who used to live in the street also, we have got a child together. Then I met Nadine who already attended CAFA and took me there.
Now, I would no longer want to return to the life in the street. All the more reason it is no more the same thing. Most of our friends got killed there by invisible hands or they were missing. The street becomes very dangerous.
Nadine, at her return, tells her life story : “ I lived at an aunt of mine . We had a little difference of opinion, I came out of the house. At first I worked as a baby – sitter at a lady’s house. But after the lady has left the country, I found myself again out of job. Then a friend of mine advised me the street. After a while, Claudette a social worker took me to CAFA; I have been there for five ( 5 ) years.
“ One thing is certain, we would never like to see our children undergo the same lot as we did. In the past I didn’t attach any importance to the fact that I slept in the street. Now I would be ashamed of it, and it’s a miracle if I managed to get out of it definitively. In spite of the efforts of CAFA, some of us returned there”.
It’s true that we are no longer as independent as before, she adds, by specifying “But this new life style is better than that we have known up to the present day. Sunday, for example, used to be an awful day. We virtually found nothing to eat.
Carline remains the most marked of the street life: “The greatest problem of the street is insecurity, the untimely police raids. Some times, we are arrested and beaten. And they don’t show any consideration for the fact that we are girls. They give us blows anywhere in our bodies. But, in general, they let us go after”.
Some times, they come to search for one of the boys and when they don’t find him, they arrest the girls. I was in prison several times, but we must say that there were some police officers who were nice towards us and they defended us towards their colleagues when some of them brutally hit us”.
Living in street is not easy. The interviewee frequently had sexual intercourse with different partners. They confess that they haven’t always used the condom, or even not at all. Thanks to the intervention of the social workers of the reception centers who make them aware of the use of the condoms and the danger to be infected by HIV and SIT, they come there to ask for the use to their partners’ great displeasure.
“Once rehabilitated, the people in charge of the center initiate us into cooking, flower arranging, into pastry, dressmaking and some times we give a hand to CAFA’s laundry in return for a bit of money”, they say.
“Now, our life is more restrictive than we are in the center. Confronted with the reality, we try to hang on to what little we have. We content ourselves with what little fruits of our works which provide us a meagre but honest subsistence”, they say.
On top of all that, we are much better considerate in the public’s eyes. For example, when there is a wedding, a graduation, they appeal to us to make the decoration and that generates us a bit of money. Now, we no longer need to be supported by a man”, they indicate.
“The boys used to give us money. In the street, we learned to live in solidarity, to make friends. We have lost some of them during the campaign “zéro tolérance” (tolerance zero). It was a very painful experience for us”, they estimate