Women of Haiti in the spotlight of new show

The victimized women of Haiti are being spotlighted in this year’s production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues.

Shelley Pilote recites a scene from the Vagina Monologues as other cast members listen during a rehearsal on Sunday afternoon.

Shelley Pilote recites a scene from the Vagina Monologues as other cast members listen during a rehearsal on Sunday afternoon.

The victimized women of Haiti are being spotlighted in this year’s production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues.

The production that runs the gamut between high emotion and high comedy with the goal of instilling a broader sense of female empowerment, highlights a new cause every year.

And the latest is the plight of Haitian women, who are not only victims of a crushing earthquake, but are also experiencing a high rate of sexual violence.

“The whole country is in turmoil,” said Melanie Willerth, community action co-ordinator with the Central Alberta AIDS Network.

With many homeless Haitians still living in temporary camps, lawlessness seems to rule, with women being particularly vulnerable to attacks.

A survey conducted by the Haitian women’s rights organization Kay Fanm found 72 per cent of Haitian girls were raped in the country that only made rape a crime in 2005, said Willerth.

As well, some 70 per cent of Haitian women were victims of domestic or other types of violence.

Willerth, who is directing the production that runs Friday and Saturday, Feb. 11 and 12, at the Memorial Centre in Red Deer, said a new monologue about Haiti pays tribute to activist Miriam Merlet.

The feminist, who was killed in the January 2010 earthquake, first brought The Vagina Monologues to Haiti — a gutsy move, considering how slow the country has been in recognizing any rights for women.

While the Monologues also deals with female repression in other parts of the world, it’s more than just a summary of the indignities women suffer globally.

It’s a celebration, said Willerth.

She noted the production, written after Ensler interviewed real-life women, can be extremely touching and funny, containing speeches about orgasms, male-female relationships, childbirth and — of course — vaginas. “It’s a very empowering experience.”

This year’s cast of 24 includes three mother-daughter pairs and the youngest-ever participant at 13.

Some higher-profile volunteers are radio hosts Lindsay Rae of The Kraze 101.3 and Whitney Grace of 100.7 The River, Robin Armitage of the Soroptimists, and Kim Berube, founder of Real Woman magazine.

“This year’s group is very close-knit,” said Willerth, who added participants are interested in drawing attention to acts of violence against women. “They are fighting to stop it, and are saying, ‘We can do something about it.’ ”

Tickets to the 8 p.m. shows are $30 from the Black Knight Ticket Centre. There will be a silent auction and cash bar. Ten per cent of proceeds will go towards women’s programs in Haiti, while 90 per cent will stay in the Red Deer community.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com