Intercultural exchange launched between feminist communicators of Haiti and Costa Rica

September 5, 2011

By Margaret Thompson

The little blue house in the jungle just 50 meters from Playa Cocles on the southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica will soon be filled with women’s voices speaking in Haitian Creole, French, Spanish, Mekatelyu* (Creole of Limon), and English, as part of an intercultural exchange between feminist communicators and other women activists of Haiti and Costa Rica. 

REFRAKA -- Women's Network of Community Radios of Haiti

Two Haitian feminist journalists will arrive on September 7th in Costa Rica for a program organized by ESCRIBANA designed to build international connections between women’s independent media of Haiti and those in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Such connections are particularly important as Haiti continues its struggle to recover from the massive earthquake in January 2010, which greatly affected women’s organizations and communications, among other massive damages to communities.  The aftermath of the earthquake has shown the resilience of women and their organizations among other civil society groups, all seeking to rebuild their lives and movements for a better Haiti.  

The two visitors, Marie Guyrlain Justin and Imellienne Ulysse of REFRAKA (Women’s Network of Community Radios in Haiti) are survivors of the enormous earthquake, but have labored intensively to rise above it, doing extensive work for women producers of community radio in Haiti to enable them to continue broadcasting, through training and re-development of their social organizations.

During their month-long program in Puerto Viejo, Justin, a radio producer and coordinator of the REFRAKA Network, and Ulysse, also a radio producer and program director will take intensive Spanish classes and also a course in gender & communication provided by ESCRIBANA.  They will also participate in exchanges with Afro-Caribbean women in Punta Cocles, and indigenous women of Talamanca.

Justin told ESCRIBANA that there has long been a strong interest among Haitian women communicators to connect with those in the Latin American & Caribbean region, but “the barrier of the language has kept us disconnected from each other.”  She said that they also decided to travel to Costa Rica to learn Spanish “because women in Costa Rica have shown great solidarity with us,” particularly since the massive earthquake in January last year in Haiti.

Last year Costa Rican feminist organizations worked with the Feminist International Camp, Mano a Mano con las Mujeres de Haiti (Hand to Hand with Women of Haiti) and  Feminist International Radio Endeavour (FIRE) in regional efforts to provide aid requested by the Haitian feminists. Money, tents, food and medicines were delivered directly to the organizations.

While in Costa Rica, the Haitians will take intensive daily Spanish classes with a local language instructor in Puerto Viejo who also is conversant in French, and also participate in a gender & communications course offered by ESCRIBANA. 

The course combines theory and practice and is based on a theory of women’s empowerment focusing on the story of Rosa Parks and her struggle to retain her place on the bus as a symbol of women’s place in the world.  By “transgressing” sexism, racism and classism, often imposed through personal and political violence, women can seek control of their own bodies and lives, as well as affirm their place in communities and societies.  The class also focuses on basic practices of non-sexist journalism from women’s perspectives.  “The exchange will explore ways of incorporating these ideas into radio production work,” says Maria Suarez Toro of ESCRIBANA..

During their visit, Justin and Ulysse will meet with the Women’s Association of Cocles (ASO Mujeres) to share experiences and strategies related to communications and community initiatives.  The ASO Mujeres is a network of nearly 30 women entrepreneurs that focuses on local development through women’s leadership development; social, environmental and health programs for women, children and youth; and development of creative classes and space for all community members. 

Also planned are meetings with Bribri indigenous women in Talamanca, and feminist activists of San José, Costa Rica. The Haitian women will also converse with FIRE about an eventual radio training in Haiti.

The month long respite will also provide rest for the women and restore their energy to keep moving ahead with their work back home in Haiti.

ESCRIBANA will issue daily reports (Spanish and English) together with the Haitian feminists (Creole and French) in ESCRIBANA’s FACEBOOK (username: ESCRIBANAS) and blog at


To enable these exchanges and language training for the Haitians, ESCRIBANA has been organizing voluntary contributions for food, logistics and accommodations.

For more information about donations, please write to ESCRIBANA at:

*The Mekatelyu, also spelled “mekaytelyuw” is a creole language spoken in the province of Limón on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. The name is a transliteration of the phrase “Make I tell you” or, in standard English, “let me tell you,” or, ‘Let me / let me tell you something” in Spanish (Wikipedia).

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