2012 ‘CNN Hero of the Year’ to speak April 22 at NIU

Malya Villard-Appolon
Malya Villard-Appolon

Malya Villard-Appolon, named the 2012 CNN Hero of the Year for her work combating sexual violence against women in Haiti, will visit and speak at NIU this month.

Villard-Appolon is associate director of KOFAVIV, an organization that helps victims of sexual violence in Haiti. Her advocacy work has taken her to the courtroom, internally displaced persons camps, the U.S. State Department, the United Nations and around the world.

She will speak at NIU at noon Tuesday, April 22, in the Regency Room at the Holmes Student Center. The talk is open to the public.

Like elsewhere, rape has long been an issue in Haiti, and historically it has been under-reported because of social stigma, retaliation from perpetrators and a lack of legal support. Since Villard-Appolon and Marie Eramithe Delva started KOFAVIV in 2004, the organization has helped more than 4,000 rape survivors find safety, psychological support and/or legal aid.

The visit and talk by Villard-Appolon is sponsored by the NIU Anthropology Museum as part of the campus-wide initiative to promote Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It also dovetails into an ongoing exhibit at the museum, titled “Fragments: Haiti Four Years After the Earthquake,” which invites visitors to explore the lives and living conditions of Haitian people living “under the tents” since the 2010 earthquake.

The Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti rates among the deadliest disasters in history.

Komisyon Fanm Viktim pou Viktim logoWhile precise figures remain elusive, the seismic event claimed as many as 316,000 lives. The disaster was also one of the most widely covered events in modern history. International media attention helped raise $2 billion in private donations and $5.6 billion in official funds for the two years following the earthquake.

Four years later, media attention on Haiti has significantly diminished. And living conditions remain among the worst in the world; 280,000 people are still living under tents in scores of camps.

Visitors to the Anthropology Museum’s exhibit can enter a tent provided for people displaced from their homes by the earthquake and view artifacts of tent life. Reproductions of a dwelling in one of Port-au-Prince’s shantytowns, a school room and a cot invite all visitors to experience life as a Haitian today. The exhibit runs through June 2014.

The exhibit is based upon a decade of research by Mark Schuller, an NIU professor of anthropology and NGO Leadership Development and affiliate at the Faculté d’Ethnologie, l’Université d’État d’Haïti. Schuller’s research on NGOs, gender, globalization and disasters in Haiti is supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Science Foundation and has been widely published.

For more information on museum-related events, call (815) 753-2520 or email [email protected].

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