When Catherine Flon sewed the first Haitian Flag on this day in 1803, her hand was undoubtedly guided by visions of its colors waving high and proud. She was one of many women memorialized in the history of the Haitian Revolution, when women such as Suzanne Bélair, Marie-Jeanne Lamartinière, Victoria Montou and countless others took up every imaginable role in the war against slavery and oppression, from organization and leadership to combat service in the ranks of our revolutionary forces.

As we look upon our flag today, let us consider the women of the past in shaping the country of the present. In an era when women were traditionally considered but mothers and homemakers, the women of Haiti fought alongside their husbands, sons and brothers in battle for their very survival and freedom. And while we can only look back in awe, we must look ahead with conviction, that we, their descendents, are the free people for whom our ancestors fought so bravely and won.

The world may have changed, but we have much in common with the past, and we have our own battle to fight. The war against poverty, corruption, marginalization and suffering is neither won nor lost. Our proud nation, with its flag waving high, has much to answer for and atone. And when we look around and ask ourselves, what means do we have for such an undertaking, we must ask ourselves, what means did our ancestors have to achieve the impossible?

As a people, we have the same means that allowed us to become a people in the first place — Unity.

Today, there are no chains around our hands and feet. The chains that keep us are bound firmly in our minds. Division, distrust, and a lack of vision are more than enough to turn free people into prisoners of their time. We, as the women of Haiti, once again call upon our people to unite, to free their minds and spirits, to put ideas into action, and to lean on one another in unshakable might. We are here, Haiti, a nation of people founded on principles that we must embrace once again, now, and forever.

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