“Kat Je” Four eyes will helpPosted: April 1, 2011
Later Thursday afternoon, our group had the good fortune to be invited by Rep. Frederica Wilson to attend a personal one-hour meeting. Rep. Wilson is a freshman congresswoman who serves on the House Foreign Affairs committee and represents a Miami district with the second largest population of Haitians and Haitian-Americans.
Jean Robert Pierre explained to the Congresswoman the extreme importance of Haitian grassroots groups like COZPAM or KONAFAP as well as Diaspora groups being involved in the reconstruction process and in such mechanisms as the National Housing Plan. “We need to help ensure that the most vulnerable people in Haiti, the people living under tents, are the ones actually receiving this new housing. Therefore, the grassroots needs to be in the middle of it.” Lousiane added, “It costs the US government $3,000 to $4,000 to build a temporary tent, one that can’t stand up to flooding and that can be slashed by a razor blade and have armed men enter to rape young girls. Doesn’t it make more sense to use this money to actually build safe, long-term houses?”
The Congresswoman was amazed and disturbed by what she heard. When the team explained to her that the House Foreign Affairs Committee could help, by speaking up to the IHRC, USAID and State Department and demanding that grassroots be more deeply consulted and involved in the National Housing Plan, National Protection Plan of Women, and National Agricultural Investment Plan, she paid attention.
Rep. Wilson asked her Chief of Staff to make an appointment at USAID so that she could directly address these issues and to notify the head of the IHRC that she wanted a meeting. Next, she asked us what type of grassroots movements should be at the decision making table. One of the many examples that the team gave was the peasant social movement, incorporating multiple grassroots coalitions, the “Kat Je,” meaning “Four Eyes.” The Congresswoman looked confused and asked, “What does that mean, the Four Eyes…I just don’t get that.” Marie Andree stepped to explain the concept of Four Eyes.. “This an important one in Haiti. It means that if you and I are looking one another directly in the eyes and really respecting one another, then we cannot lie to one another…we have to tell the truth.” The Congresswoman started laughing and clapping her hands, delighted at the thought. “Now that, I like,” she said. “That is wise, and we are going to have to definitely do something together about that.”