Port Au Prince, Haiti -- As Haiti welcomes a new president, who also happens to be a musician, we started to think about the power of music to bring change to Haiti. Music has long been a source of inspiration to people and can be the perfect motivator to incite action to create a better world. As a member of a rock band and leader at the United Nations Foundation, we are a unique pair, but our goal is the same. We are committed to helping the United Nations protect Haitian women and girls from violence in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake and we are urging music fans around the world to do the same.
Nearly 3 million people were made homeless in an instant when the massive 7.0 earthquake shook Haiti in January of last year. Survivors pitched tents and set up tarps on any open spaces they could find. During our trip to Haiti today, we met with several women who represent the nearly one million people who are still living in these so-called "spontaneous settlements." A combination of darkness and cramped conditions has spawned a wave of gender-based violence. In some of the larger camps, rapes are almost a daily occurrence. To make matters worse, there is little recourse for justice for victims of sexual violence.
Yet, relatively simple things can go a long way toward improving the safety and welfare of women living in camps. One of the most common requests from camp residents is for lighting at night so that women and young girls can feel safer when walking to the bathroom at the edges of the camps. Street lights help to keep would-be predators in the shadows, so the UN Foundation and other partners are working directly with camp residents to distribute solar-powered lights to camps -- and letting camp women decide where they should be placed.
During a visit to Camp Corail, where 250 families displaced by the earthquake have been given refuge in temporary structures built by the UN, we met with women and girls who felt threatened for their safety at night because the camp had no electricity or lighting. The children also didn't have a place to study and read at night. As a result of support from UN Foundation, Music for Relief and other donors, the UN installed solar lights at key locations in the camp. When I asked a young girl named Jessica about how she studied at night, her eyes lit up, and she replied "la lumiere!" A boy named Will said that, before the lights, everyone stayed in their huts after sunset. Now the kids have a place to gather with their friends. As we drove out of the camp, we passed through another UN camp where, solar light after solar light, the kids were gathered.
So far, 200 lights have been installed in camps. But the need is much greater than that. That is why Linkin Park's Music for Relief is teaming up with the UN Foundation to raise money for solar lighting. Music for Relief, a nonprofit founded by the band members of Linkin Park after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, is helping the United Nations and the UN Foundation provide solar powered streetlights in camps to keep women and girls safe at night.
Linkin Park decided to team up with the United Nations because rebuilding after a disaster of this magnitude requires sustained investment, not just a one-time injection of funds. The United Nations has been in Haiti for years -- and long after Haiti fades from the headlines, the United Nations will still be in Haiti helping the country get back on its feet.
It costs about $2,000 to procure, ship, and install one solar powered street light. Our goal is to send 100 lights to Haiti's camps. It is easy to help at Downloadtodonate.org and as an added bonus those who donate will have access to several dozen special tracks available for download from top artists. Stay tuned for a new video for the Linkin Park song "Not Alone," which is included in the collection to illustrate the progress Haiti is making and the great needs that still exist.
After meeting with women and girls today and learning the challenges they face each day, it is more important than ever to do all that we can to light the future for Haiti's women and girls. An estimated 43 percent of households in Haiti are headed by women. As Haiti rebuilds and people move from tents and tarps to more stable shelters, we must support employment opportunities for women and promote the health and education of girls. In the meantime, solar powered streetlights will make things a little bit safer for women and girls struggling to get by in Haiti's tent cities.
So turn on the music, become inspired, and take action for Haiti. If each one of us does our part, together we can help light the future for women and girls.
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