Today I join the International Women´s Day festivities to celebrate and honor the courageous, relentless, inspiring, talented and beautiful women and girls I met when I visited Haiti in January with a group of bloggers (#Bloggers4Haiti) and Heart of Haiti.

Aside from the empowered women I had the honor to travel with, every single day we´d encounter in Haiti a group of women who would just inspire us with their presence. These women have been through or been witness to unimaginable disasters, suffering, chaos and, in many cases, loss. Despite all that, their eyes have a twinkle and their smiles a glow I can honestly say we were not expecting. Not only that, but the words out of their  mouths are not the words of a victim, they are words filled with hope and a yearning to better themselves through education and work, not charity.

These are the women I celebrate today, the women of Haiti.

The future of Haiti is in their eyes. We met these schoolgirls in the coastal and artsy town of Jacmel. Notice their perfectly pressed and cleaned dresses, the hairstyle and perfect bows. Haitians take pride in their cleanliness and appearance, even if they´re living amidst rubble or tent cities.

This woman came up to the beach house in Jacmel where we were being hosted for brunch. She was carrying hand woven bags, baskets and hats for sale that are crafted by local artisans.

We visited a school in Léogane, the town where the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake hit, where Dam Dam, a  women´s cooperative, meet to create paper maiche art pieces to sell to international retailers.

In this picture you see blogger Nadia Jones showing them what the internet looks like. They had never seen it. Now, thanks to a generous donation from fellow blogger Leticia Barr, they have a laptop of their own.

More fabulous ladies from Dam Dam.

From the Dam Dam Facebook page:

“The Dam Dam Craft project is an income-generation project established by Tevel B’Tezedek /IsraAid. The project has been running since September 2010 and targets women living in communities which were affected by the January 12th earthquake.

The primary purpose of the project is to create a sustainable, long-term income generation source for the women and their families. This is in conjunction with the goal of encouraging personal development, group education and a commitment to volunteer within the community.”

The lady to the left became my official photographer while visiting the Dam Dam ladies. I gave her  my camera and taught her how to use it. She was having a blast taking pictures of her friends and making them laugh.

To the left, our relentless leader and the heart of this trip, Willa Shalit. Willa has dedicated her life to celebrate and empower women. First as the producer of the Vagina Monologues and now as the founder of Fairwinds Trading. Thanks to her vision and leadership, thousands of women and families in disaster and poverty-stricken areas now are able to provide for themselves through their art and craft.

We visited a group of women who, two years later, are still living in tent cities with their families. They are determined to make their own income and provide an education to their children. This woman here is one of the many in this tent city who have come together to create OFEDA, an organization of women devoted to taking action. The day we went there was very special because Willa Shalit had visited them months before and had promised to help. She brought with her designs for handmade gift cards and supplies for the ladies to create them. Nathalie Tancrede of the Artisans Business Network and country director would be in charge of making sure their creations were distributed and sold. How surprised were we to find out than only a month after our trip the OFEDA ladies had already created their first set of fabulous gift cards and were already being sold at! Now that’s inspiration!

Check out our Haitian Artisans Pinterest board to see more of the amazing products being created by Haitian women and being consciously sold by the likes of Macy’s, Donna Karan, Anthropologie, Rachel Roy  and so many more. Conscious purchasing will aid  these women more than you can imagine.

All photos © SpanglishBaby, Ltd. and may not be used without our prior consent.

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