Sonia Pierre, Dominican Republic
2010 International Women of Courage Award Winner
Sonia Pierre became an activist at the age of 13, when she was arrested for being the spokesperson of a group of Haitian sugar-cane cutters in her migrant labor village who were protesting for better wages and living conditions. Since that time, she has dedicated her life to fighting anti-Haitian discrimination in the Dominican Republic as well as the broader issue of statelessness.
Ms. Pierre is the founder and leader of MUDHA (Movement of Dominican-Haitian Women). The organization works to address the problems that Haitians and their children born in the Dominican Republic face, and tries to reform the problems in documenting people in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic that give rise to a class of people unable to reap the benefits and protections of nationality and citizenship. Ms. Pierre has used a campaign of public education and legal action to reform the Dominican Republic’s birth registration system and to build awareness of how statelessness deprives people of access to crucial human rights such as healthcare, education, and safe housing and working conditions.
MUDHA has built homes in migrant labor areas, partnered with other individuals and organizations to ensure migrant workers have access to food and medicine, and provided services to address issues of adolescent pregnancy and the prevention of sexually-transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. The organization works with undocumented laborers to ensure their rights are upheld and that they have access to social security, pensions, and severance pay.
Ms. Pierre and her organization have raised the human rights concerns of Dominicans of Haitian descent in Washington and at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which Ms. Pierre successfully petitioned to have address the Dominican Republic’s discriminatory practices regarding birth registration. Her work has attracted periodic criticism from government officials and business leaders, and led to death threats. Despite the hostility, MUDHA has actively maintained channels of communication with Government agencies – a conduit that has become ever more important since the devastating January earthquake in Haiti.