The Je nan Je (meaning Eye to Eye) campaign was born in 2011 in response to Haiti's housing crisis. With hundreds of thousands of survivors from the 2010 earthquake still living in tents and an apparent lack of urgency among decision makers, ActionAid and partners came together to focus attention on the urgent need for government to allocate land for building homes.
We also called for transparency and accountability in how reconstruction funds are being managed. As far we could see, the interests of the most vulnerable Haitians - those hit hardest by the disaster - were not being taken into account by policy makers. Indeed, from right after the quake struck, government plans for recovery appeared to be made for and by the wealthiest.
Je nan Je offered an opportunity for those affected by the earthquake, particularly the most vulnerable, to come together, share experiences and create a campaign to make their voices heard.
Challenges they shared included: Lack of land titles and property inventories; low participation in reconstruction decisions; and fertile land being turned over to industrial parks.
A force for change
Je nan Je became a strong grassroots movement reaching over 800,000 Haitians, raising awareness of land and housing rights, mobilising tens of thousands in peaceful demonstrations and presenting a comprehensive charter of demands to the government in January 2012.
As the campaign grew, ActionAid helped to strengthen activists skills along the way - including in collecting and presenting accurate data to show the problem.
After several public hearings, the government responded. A parliamentary commission tasked with creating laws to guarantee land and housing rights is due to report on progress in January 2013. A milestone in citizens' quest for accountable government.
There are also examples of practical progress. Emboldened by Je nan Je, Marie-Charles Juste Luce, a resident of Mariani survivors camp, took up the issue with the Mayor of Gressier who was eventually able to provide a plot of land. ActionAid began building homes in partnership with local authorities and in 2013, these will provide secure homes for 160 families.
As the battle continues, I am proud of what we’ve achieved: Je nan Je represents a massive power for change.
Another great pleasure I had while coordinating campaign activities, was experiencing the solidarity of people around the world - and especially in the United States - participating in our struggle and giving support however they can.
Our partners in Haiti are strengthening and their capacity to advocate is growing. As Je nan Je concludes its second year, optimism has increased and campaigners are mapping out plans for the year ahead.
Plans include pursuing legal reforms to land and housing policies; training local activists in research and documentation to help engage decision makers more effectively; championing models of housing and farming led by women to help improve gender equality; and bringing together parliamentarians and people without homes to help shape policies that are relevant.
The ActionAid Haiti team is humbled to be part of such innovative approach and dynamic movement and is looking forward to the new year.