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Celebrating Haitian women from across the spectrum

Haitian women come in all hues, shapes, sizes and skill sets. As we celebrate International Women’s Month, The Haitian Times is pleased to highlight just a few across backgrounds, careers and lifestyles that we see making a difference in their chosen fields and how they live. Some are prominent, others not so much. They all share a passion for seeking to make a positive impact as they move through the world, and we will feature some of them throughout the month.

Know a Haitian woman who should be included on this list? Email submissions@haitiantimes with a little bit about them. 

Name: Marjorie Valbrun

Profession: Managing Editor, Inside Higher Ed

City/country of residence: Washington, D.C., USA

Ties to Haiti: Haitian-American

Notable works: Recipient of 2014 Perry and Alicia O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism; award recipient for international, feature and editorial writing; former Alicia Patterson Fellow, former Nieman Fellow

Impact: Has written impactful stories about everything from the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake to disparities in higher education

Name: Lody Jean

Profession: Judge at Miami-Dade County Court

City/country of residence: Miami, F.L, USA

Ties to Haiti: Raised in Haiti to Lebanese parents

Notable works: First Haitian-American woman to serve on the Miami-Dade County Court; recipient of Haitian Lawyers Association law school scholarship while attending St. Thomas University; former chair of the Florida Bar’s Unlicensed Practice of Law Committee

Impact: Works to provide civil services to immigrants throughout Miami-Dade County, including assisting people of Haitian descent apply for naturalization; addresses issues of deportation at forums; focuses on other legal issues like eviction and TPS

Name: Valery Gabriel

Profession: K-12th grade educator

Ties to Haiti: Haitian-American, born in raised Haiti

City/country of residence: New York City, N.Y., USA

Notable works: Life changer of the year 2021-2022 Nominee, Today’s Students Tomorrow’s Teachers Five Year Recognition Award 2021-2022

Impact: A first-generation teacher and former ENL student, she has traveled to 25 countries, many of which she taught abroad; encouraged her students all over the world to become the best version of themselves; takes a keen interest in their social and emotional well-being; continues to advocate and empower Haitian youth through  numerous organizations she volunteers for by organizing toy drives, scholarships and by helping to raise funds through the Rockland County Haiti Relief

Quote: “We rise by lifting others up” – Robert Ingersoll

Name: Jenny Menelas

Occupation: Business Coordinator for Jaspen Group Staffing, Associate at Haitian Association of Indiana

City/country of residence: Indianapolis, I.N., USA

Ties to Haiti: Born in Haiti

Notable works: Volunteer Natural Helper at Indianapolis’ Immigrant Welcome Center

Impact: Central to welcoming Haitian immigrants and Haitian Americans to their new city by acknowledging needs and directing them to appropriate services

Name: Rose Gbadamassi

Profession: Executive Director Haitian Community of Minnesota

City/country of residence: Minneapolis, M.N., USA 

Ties to Haiti: Born in Haiti

Notable work: Volunteer, community organizer and activist for past 22 years

Impact: Raising funds and awareness to support Haitian-Americans living in Minnesota, and Haitians living in Haiti, transforming their lives positively.

Name & Age: Sandra Jean Charite, 38

Profession: Mental Health Counselor

Ties to Haiti: Haitian-American

City/country of residence: Miami, F.L., USA

Notable works: Former journalist, has created inspirational journals for young girls and women, blogger, songwriter, podcaster and author of three books: “Broken Crayons Still Color,” “Picking Up My Pearls from the Altar,” and “The Lies I Told Myself: Only Truth Can Set You Free

Impact: Writing compelling books to inspire and encourage people on their spiritual journey

Name & Age: Delphine Gardère, 37

Profession: Owner and CEO of Société du Rhum Barbancourt

City/country of residence: Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Notable works: Won legal victory to assume full control of Société du Rhum Barbancourt, the oldest and biggest run exporter in Haiti; ensured the company hired 500 people and works with 3,000 farmers in a co-op manner, working to expand Rhum Barbancourt through new products and international development

Impact: As the second woman to run the company, actively strives to promote women’s empowerment throughout Haiti, works on other social issues, including education, funds mobile medical clinics for Rhum Barbancourt employees and their families

Dotie Joseph Florida House

Name & Age: Dotie Joseph, 42

Occupation: Representative for Florida’s 108th House District

City/country of residence: North Miami, F.L., USA

Ties to Haiti: Born in Haiti

Notable achievements: Recipient of “Women on the Rise Award” from the Dade County Bar Association, “Woman of Substance Award” from Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners, named a Florida Legal Elite Government Attorney by Florida Trend magazine

Impact: Civil rights activist focused on gun control legislation, tenant protections and fair treatment for disabled individuals

Name: Ibi Zoboi

Occupation: Author of young-adult fiction

City/country of residence: Maplewood, N.J., USA

Ties to Haiti: Born in Haiti

Notable works: New York Times bestselling author of “American Street,” National Book Award finalist, co-author of Walter Award-winning “Punching the Air”

Impact: Has established community-based programs for teen girls both in New York and Haiti, actively works through her stories to raise representation of Haitians in literature, magnifies discussion about the intersection of cultural identity, gentrification and class status

Name & Age: Jocelyne Palenquet, 63

Profession: Human Rights Officer at the United Nations

Ties to Haiti: Born in La Montagne, Jacmel

Notable works: Founded GRAEFES (Groupe d’Appui et d’Encadrement aux Femmes) in 1997, organized first meeting of Haitian and Dominican women in 1999 for a symposium aimed at strengthening laws to fight violence against women 

Impact: For years, has been advocating for the reform of Haiti’s educational system, mainly on a primary level

Name: Barbara Jacques 

Profession: Founder and Creator of JACQ’S

City/country of residence: Miami, F.L., USA

Ties to Haiti: Haitian-American

Notable works: Awarded “Top 40 Under 40” by Miami Herald Business Journal in 2012, selected by Legacy Magazine the following year as one of “South Florida’s 40 Under 40 Leaders of Today & Tomorrow,” JACQ’S is a Green America-certified business approved by PETA

Impact: Actively works to change the way the beauty industry views skincare for women of color, strives to eliminate toxic chemicals in cosmetics frequently used by Black women, volunteers as a reading mentor for elementary students and at-risk youth

Name: Nzingah Oniwosan

Profession: Entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, holistic health-and-wellness coach

City/country of residence: Fort Lauderdale, F.L., USA

Ties to Haiti: Haitian-American

Notable works: Creator of 365zing app helping Black women achieve their health goals, creator of “Yes Baby I Like It Raw” brand, founded Sankofa’s Child cultural arts company

Impact: Helps women of color heal their physical bodies by addressing mental, emotional and spiritual issues, utilizes art to help transform lives, facilitates entrepreneurship throughout Haiti

Name: Karm Syndia-Augustin

Profession: Founder of Espwa Demen

City/country of residence: Boston, M.A., USA

Ties to Haiti: Born and raised in Haiti

Notable works: 2012 OPACH Award for outstanding contributions and dedication to Haitian national folklore and heritage, 2013 Dean Award from Pine Manor College for outstanding contributions to the community, 2016 Partners in Excellence Award by Partners Healthcare

Impact: Through Espwa Demenn, helps children in rural Haiti to pursue education, works to actively promote Haitian culture in entertainment, art and dance

Notable quote: “Know yourself: no one can take that away from you when you know who you are.”

Name & Age: Ertha Pascal-Trouillot, 79

Occupation: Haiti’s provisional president of Haiti for 11 months in 1990 and 1991.

City/country of residence: Haitian, living in Port-au-Prince

Notable works: Haiti’s provisional president of Haiti for 11 months in 1990 and 1991, Justice of the Haitian Supreme Court (1988-1990), Judge of the Federal Court of Haiti (1975-1988) 

Impact: Leadership and occupational role model for women worldwide.

Notable quote: Regarding her acceptance of the presidential position, she said, “I accepted the position in the name of Haitian women. I did it as a service to my country. I did it with love and determination.”

Name: Michelle Lisa Polissaint

Occupation: Education and Community Engagement Manager at Oolite Arts, Visual artist and arts organizer

Ties to Haiti: Haitian-American

City/country of residence: Miami, F.L., USA

Notable work: Resident artist at Bakehouse Art Complex, 2018 Creator Award Winner, Oolite Arts.

Thoughts on her work: “At its simplest and most honest, my work responds to my experiences. Utilizing photography, textiles, and community engagement, my practice reflects the world through my black, queer, Haitian lens.”

Name: Marie-Marcelle Deschamps

Occupation: Deputy Director of GHESKIO

City/country of residence: Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Notable works: Chosen by senior Haitian and U.S. doctors to complete fellowships at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Walter Reed Military Hospital, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, received the Legion of Merit award in 2004 from former French president Jacques Chirac for her work regarding AIDS care and research

Impact: Pioneering medical doctor in Haiti responsible for creating a bevy of social services, including primary school for orphaned and destitute students, a vocational program for former commercial sex workers and microfinance for women entrepreneurs, renowned internationally for her groundbreaking research on HIV/AIDS

Name & Age: Bayyinah Bello, 73

Occupation: Founder of historical research organization Fondasyon Marie-Claire Heureuse Félicité Bonheur Dessalines, professor of history at the State University of Haiti

City/country of residence: Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Notable works: Honoree in 2014 at the Gala des Femmes en Flammes for humanitarian work in Haiti, author of “Jean-Jacques Dessalines: 21 Facts About His Life”, holds lectures across the world about Haitian and Pan-African history, as well as linguistics

Impact: Internationally-renowned scholar, author and activist known for pioneering educational studies about Haitian history and culture

Name: M. Florine Démosthène

Occupation: Artist

City/country of residence: Haiti/New York, N.Y., USA

Ties to Haiti: Raised in Port-au-Prince

Notable works

Impact: Versatile and multi-faceted artist exploring a variety of subjects through mixed media, including the African concept of love, the role of self free of societal constructs and the narratives of Black female heroines

Guerline Jozef

Name: Guerline Jozef

Occupation: Co-founder and executive director of Haitian Bridge Alliance (HBA), a US-based nonprofit organization advocating for fair and humane immigration policies. 

City/State: San Diego, C.A., USA

Ties to Haiti: Haitian-American 

Notable works: To be honored by the Women’s Refugee Commission at its Voices of Courage Awards luncheon, May 3. The annual event distinguishes those women fighting for the rights of displaced women and girls. 

Impact on the community: HBA featured significantly during the Del Rio bridge crisis in September of last year, providing social services and advocacy to the many immigrants who crossed the southern border into the United States.

Josef has dedicated her life to bring awareness to issues that affect us all locally and globally such as Immigration, Social justice, Domestic Violence, Child Sexual abuse.

In addition to her work at HBA, Josef also co-founded the Black Immigrants Bail Fund — a national project of the HBA in response to the high bond amount required of Black immigrants to provide free assistance and relief. And with the support of Black-led organizations is involved with the African Bureau for Immigration and Social Affairs to promote social and economic justice, civic participation & empowerment of Black and African immigrants and refugees.

Name: Régine Michelle Jean-Charles

Occupation: Director of the Africana Studies Program at Northeastern University 

City/country of residence: Boston, M.A. USA

Ties to Haiti: Haitian-American

Notable works: Has written multiple books focusing on the Haitian diaspora, France and Caribbean literature, including “Conflict Bodies: The Politics of Rape Representation in the Francophone Imaginary,” “A Trumpet of Conscience for the 21st Century” and “Looking for Other Worlds: Black Feminism, Literary Ethics, and Haitian Fiction” 

Impact: Actively explores a variety of important subjects through her literary work, including Black feminism in Haitian literature, as well as the intersections of gender, justice and race 

Photo from Love & Hip Hop.

Name & age: Jessie Woo, 35

Occupation: Comedienne, media personality and singer 

City/country of residence: Miami, F.L.

Notable works: Became a viral sensation on social media through her comedic alter ego, Cadouskha Jean-Francois, which lead to a stint as a red carpet host for BET and supporting cast member of two seasons on Love & Hip Hop: Miami.

Impact: Uses her celebrity platform to be a “loud and proud” Haitian.

Photo from Facebook.

Name & age: Mackensia Fontaine, 35

Occupation: Nurse; Midwife, responsible for maternity department at Saint Therese Hospital in Hinche

City/country of residence: Hinche, Haiti

Impact in the community:  Helps to reduce the mortality rate of mother and child. 

Notable work: To promote health generally and help through the noble profession of midwifery. 

Haitian proverb to live by:  You may hate the dog, but you must admit that its teeth are white.

Name: Maryse Jean-Jacques, 72

Occupation: Social Worker, Former Executive Director at the Centre d’Education Speciale (CES) in Haiti 

City/country of residence: Haiti

Notable achievements:

-Worked with CES on the “Ecole Inclusive” program, making sure that children with disabilities are accepted in traditional schools throughout Haiti

-Helped establish CES as a training center for parents of children with disabilities and other institutions throughout Haiti working with disabled children 

Impact: Instrumental in making sure children with disabilities, who are oftentimes marginalized, are recognized and accepted into Haiti’s school system.

Name & Age: Nadia Lafleur, 40

Occupation: Executive Director of Sant Magali pou lavi, a shelter for women and girls who are victims of violence

City/country of residence: Jacmel, Haiti 

Notable achievements:

-With Sant Magali pou lavi, she established a partnership with two organizations (Brigade Protection des Mineurs and Institute du Bien-Être Social) where they rely on her and 

Sant Magali pou lavi when they meet victims of violence

-Provides training to other women organizations in Grand Anse and Gonaives to help victims of violence and establish shelters

-A member of FANM DESIDE Women organization in southeast Haiti

Impact: Has been an emotional and psychological pillar of support to young women by helping them to regain self-confidence

Photo from The Haitian Roundtable.

Name: Leonie Hermantin

Occupation: Director of Development, Communications & Strategic Planning at Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center

City/country of residence: Miami, F.L., USA

Ties to Haiti: Born in Haiti

Notable achievements:

-Named as up-and-coming leader by the Miami Herald 

-Worked as Deputy Director for the Lambi Fund of Haiti from 2008-2011

-Works with PRODEV, an organization working to help children in Haiti have access to education

Impact: Works to help Haitians in the diaspora overcome obstacles and accede to positions of leadership.

Photo from the Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce of Florida.

Name & Age: Pascale Bélony, 28

Occupation: RN and beauty queen

City/country of residence: Gainesville, F.L., USA

Ties to Haiti: Born in Haiti

Notable achievements:

-Founding member of P4H Global, an organization that works to alleviate poverty in Haiti through educational programs

-Miss Haiti at Miss Universe pageant in 2021

-Served as a Gator Nurse Student Ambassador at the University of Florida

Impact: Passionate about bringing quality healthcare to Haiti, organized health education workshops in Haiti from 2012-2015.

Jacqueline Charles
Photo from The Miami Herald.

Name: Jacqueline Charles

Occupation: Journalist

City/country of residence: Miami, F.L., USA

Ties to Haiti: Haitian-American, has covered Haiti and the Caribbean for 14 years

Notable achievements: Has won numerous awards for her reporting, including NABJ Journalist of the Year for her coverage of 2010 Haiti earthquake, the 2011 Paul Hansell Award, a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for her earthquake coverage and the 2018 Maria Moors Cabot Prize for coverage of the Americas.

Impact: Renowned for her groundbreaking coverage of both Haiti and Haitian communities in Florida.

Name & age: Elsie Hernandez, 60+

City/country of residence: Chicago, I.L., USA

Ties to Haiti: Haitian-American

Notable achievements: Co-founder and Board President of Haitian American Museum of Chicago

Impact: Created an institution that holds Haitian and Haitian Diaspora programs and exhibits contributing to the rich multicultural tapestry that is Chicago

Other notable work: Bilingual nursing instructor and consultant for International Educated Nurses assisting them in obtaining their Illinois Registered Nurse licenses.

Haitian proverb to live by: Men anpil chay pa lou, many hands make the load light.

Name & age: Ruth Jean-Marie, 32

Occupation: Development consultant

City/country of residence: Brooklyn, N.Y., USA

Ties to Haiti: Daughter of Haitian immigrants

Notable achievements

-Recognized by Forbes magazine in its 2021 Next 1000 list of up-and-coming entrepreneurs

-Won a 2019 Nike competition to design a limited-edition sneaker inspired by the Haitian revolution. 

Impact: Consults with individuals, organizations and governments to maximize the social value of development projects through her philanthropy startup, The August Project. 

Jacqueline Gautier is the National Director of Health at NPH Haiti. Photo from NPH Haiti.

Name: Jacqueline Gautier

Occupation: National Director of Health at NPH Haiti responsible for St. Damien Children’s Hospital (Haiti’s only pediatric specialty hospital)

City/Country of Residence: Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Notable works:

-First medical director of St. Damien Hospital, transitioning the hospital from a hospice center for dying children to a well-known pediatric hospital for Haiti’s vulnerable children

-Established HIV/AIDS department of St. Damien, caring for nearly 500 children receiving life-saving HIV therapy Impact (on community, profession, country, world, etc).

-Began a pediatric residency program at St. Damien to train a new generation of pediatricians.

Name: Larise Antoine Shelley

Occupation: Artistic Director of The House Theatre of Chicago, actress, playwright and visual artist

City/country of residence: Chicago, I.L., USA

Ties to Haiti: Born in Haiti; adopted and raised in the U.S.A.

Notable works:

– Podcast: When They Were Young: Amplifying Voices of Adoptees.

– Artistic Director for the upcoming “The Tragedy of King Christophe” at The House Theatre of Chicago.

Impact: Her art making leads her back home to The Haiti Home for Children in Port-au-Prince from where she was adopted and for which she is an advocate.

Margareth Corkery is the vice president of the Haitian Network of Detroit. Photo from Facebook.
  • Name: Margareth Corkery, mid-50’s
  • City/country of residence: Detroit, M.I., U.S.A.
  • Ties to Haiti: Haitian-American
  • Notable work: Co-founder, vice-president of the Haitian Network Group of Detroit 
  • Impact: For the past 21 years, actively promotes Haitian culture, provides an environment for Haitians and friends of Haiti to network, and contributes to the welfare of Haitians worldwide.
  • Favorite proverb: Bonjou se paspò ou (Your greeting is your passport)
Photo by Ellis Dawson.

Name & age: Marla Louissaint, 24

Occupation: Performer, artist and CEO of Claim Our Space Now, an organization focused on elevating BIPOC voices.

City/country of residence: New York, N.Y., USA

Ties to Haiti: Born in Haiti

Notable achievements

-Recipient of 2015 Jimmy Award for excellence in musical theater

-2015 Gershwin Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role in “Caroline, or Change”        

-Cast member of the off-Broadway show  “Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” at New York City Center

-Part of the touring cast of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

-Cast member of Netflix’s crime drama “Seven Seconds“

Impact: Works to liberate and elevate BIPOC voices throughout the world from the “throes of capitalism, white supremacist delusion and the patriarchy by living boldly and unapologetically through my art.”

Photo from Scripps College.

Name & Age: Myriam Chancy, 52

Occupation: Novelist, Chair in the Humanities at Scripps College

City/country of residence: Upland, C.A., USA

Ties to Haiti: Born and raised in Port-au-Prince

Notable achievements:

–Choice’s 1998 Outstanding Academic  Book Award for “Searching for Safe Spaces: Afro-Caribbean Women Writers in Exile”

-2004 Phoenix Award for Editorial Achievement from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals

-2011 Guyana Prize in Literature Caribbean Award for “The Loneliness of Angels” 

-2014 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial  Foundation fellow

Impact: Renowned for her explorations of different aspects of Haiti, including women within Haitian society, the role of spirituality in Haitian life, and the impact of the 2010 earthquake on the lives of Haitians in the country and throughout the world.

Name: Marjorie Joseph

Occupation: Community organizer, poet

City/country of residence: Houston, T.X., USA

Ties to Haiti: Haitian-American

Notable achievements:

–Recently honored as a guest speaker at the Houston Chapter of the United Nations Association (UNA-USA) last year

-Received the organization’s Global Citizen award for her work with Houston Coalition Against Hate (HCAH)

-HCAH won the 2021 Juneteenth Ally Award by The Center for the Healing of Racism.

Impact: Passionate activist working throughout the country to facilitate transformative shifts against institutionalized racism

Sources: Playbill,, Houston Coalition Against Hate

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