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My travels this week to Miami and Mexico City are the first stage of a journey around the world that I’ll be taking between now and end of the year – listening to and learning from our Vital Voices leaders. Follow me on Twitter for live updates from my trips (and with the hashtag #VVLeadershipJourney), and find more details here on the Vital Voices blog. 

On this first leg of my travels, I’ve been meeting with the women we work with in Latin America and the Caribbean. I flew to Miami last Friday for the inaugural Women in Production trade fair, hosted by our Haiti Chapter, Femmes en DĢ©mocratie (FED), and the Haitian American Chamber of Commerce of Florida. I had traveled to Haiti in Novemeber 2009 with our LAC Director Eugenia Podesta for the 7th Annual Trade Fair and to celebrate FED’s 10th anniversary. Hundreds of Haitian women artisans and entrepreneurs displayed – with great pride – their beautiful products for thousands.  Many of those women lost their businesses just six weeks later in the devasting earthquake that struck Haiti. Last year, for the first time in seven years, FED was unable to hold their annual trade fair in Haiti. 

Danielle Saint-Lot, has been involved with Vital Voices for more than 13 years, and founded FED along with five women’s advocates after attending a Montevideo, Uruguay conference we hosted back in 1998.

Her commitment and resolve never fails to awe those who know Danielle. We know that in times of crisis, when women are sometimes the greatest victims, they are also so often the first to offer solutions to seemingly intractable problems. We see this around the world, but particularly in Haiti – particularly in the last year. With the support of a devoted local team, Danielle’s leadership has kept FED going; she saw the chapter as a way to keep the women of her community together at a time when their unity meant more than ever before. Women in Production is the one of the results of her efforts.

As First Lady of Haiti, Sophia Martelly, said when she opened the trade fair: “Haiti is open for business.” Economic recovery and the resurgence of Haiti’s creative industries were at the center of Women in Production. The two-day trade fair showcased the art and designs of some of Haiti’s top women entrepreneurs, bringing together Haitian business leaders and the diaspora to drive economic growth and restore pride and hope. 

Check back next week for more from the next part of my trip in Mexico, when we launched the first Latin American and Caribbean Businesswomen’s Network.


Alyse Nelson, President & CEO of Vital Voices; Donna Shalala , President, University of Miami; Her Excellency Mrs. Sophia Martelly, First Lady of the Republic of Haiti; Pierre Saliba of the Haitian American Chamber of Commerce of Florida; Danielle St. Lot, founder, Femmes en DĢ©mocratie. 


Grace Nelson, First Lady Sophia Martelly, Alyse Nelson, Ann Timothee-Milfort and Pierre Saliba at the Diane von Furstenburg reception held at DVF Miami, celebrating the trade fair. Photo credit: Orlando Garcia.


First Lady Sophia Martelly greets Adis Coloado at the Diane von Furstenburg reception held at DVF Miami. Photo credit: Orlando Garcia.