World Humanitarian Day in Haiti

As the World Humanitarian Day approaches, I started to think about my own motivation to be a humanitarian actor. It is a question I have answered many times, during interviews for jobs or to my friends, but my answer never really seems to grasps the depth of my thoughts. When my friends ask me “why”, I usually joke around and say “because I want to save all the women around the world”. I do so, because it is a difficult exercise for me to explain clearly and out loud my reasons (and also because I know my friends know I am joking and that I am not suffering of the super hero syndrome…).

Being in Haiti as a volunteer for AxS is a first experience in a humanitarian context for me, even though the limits between development and humanitarian action are pretty thin here. I have been in other difficult contexts, like Kosovo, Bolivia or India, but I arrived in Kosovo years after the humanitarian crisis and the 2 others are more development contexts. Anyway, I have been a bit sick for a few days, and I came to ask myself what I was doing here, forcing my body to face unknown circumstances and diseases.

I am a fervent defender of women’s human rights, and this is the reason why I decided to work in the humanitarian field. In a humanitarian crisis, women are often placed in situation of high vulnerabilities. It is also a time where the factors of discrimination can be challenged slightly. In a way, if I “give” my time and energy to work in the humanitarian field, it is because – being an idealist-humanist – I need it, and somehow I still believe in Humanity. But it is mainly because I believe I can potentially impulse tiny changes. And these tiny changes will create other tiny changes, and so on and on… And these changes in behavior, believes and attitudes are steps further to attain gender equality. From my point of view, I am just a little piece of a huge puzzle including the other humanitarian actors (international and national), the communities, the affected people, the most vulnerable groups – often women, but not always – and those less affected.

Each humanitarian actor has its own reasons to work in this field. I am neither able nor entitled to determine which reasons are good or bad, and I think it changes over time and experiences. Being a new-be in the field, my reasons still have to face reality, and adapt to it. It is an on-going inner debate… A place like Haiti could definitely challenge my convictions and change them. Ask me in December what’s up with my motivations to work in the humanitarian field, I am already sure my discourse will be different.

I have friends scattered all around the globe, in really tough contexts (Central African Republic, the Ebola Crisis, DRC…) and with this current staking of crises, my heart beats every time I open my e-mails, fearing devastating news. So, yes, it is ok (maybe needed) to praise ourselves a bit from time to time and recognize our actions, because some of us are willing to risk a lot, sometimes their own life, for ideals. It is important that people continue to commit themselves to such actions, for the sake of Humanity, and it is important that we never stop thinking, even in our moment of self-contemplation, that people living in context of humanitarian crisis are also humanitarian actors, and they are the heroes here.

written by Irina Blanche