‘My Body is Mine’: Qualitatively Exploring Agency among Internally Displaced Women Participants in a Small-group Intervention in Leogane, Haiti.
The 2010 earthquake resulted in the breakdown of Haiti’s social, economic and health infrastructure. Over one-quarter of a million people remain internally displaced (ID). ID women experience heightened vulnerability to intimate partner violence (IPV) due to increased poverty and reduced community networks. Scant research has examined experiences of IPV among ID women in post-earthquake Haiti. We conducted a qualitative study to explore the impact of participating in Famn an Aksyon Pou Santé Yo (FASY), a small-group HIV prevention intervention, on ID women’s agency in Leogane, Haiti. We conducted four focus groups with ID women, FASY participants (n = 40) and in-depth individual interviews with peer health workers (n = 7). Our study was guided by critical ethnography and paid particular attention to power relations. Findings highlighted multiple forms of IPV (e.g., physical, sexual). Participants discussed processes of intrapersonal (confidence), interpersonal (communication), relational (support) and collective (women’s rights) agency. Yet structural factors, including patriarchal gender norms and poverty, silenced IPV discussions and constrained women’s agency. Findings suggest that agency among ID women is a multi-level, non-linear and incremental process. To effectively address IPV among ID women in Haiti, interventions should address structural contexts of gender inequity and poverty and concurrently facilitate multi-level processes of agency.
Global Public Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice, April 2015. [not open access]