Mildred Aristide is an attorney, who as former First Lady of Haiti, headed the country’s National AIDS Commission and authored a book on the root causes of child domestic service. Since her family’s return home from forced exile in 2011, Ms. Aristide and her husband, former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (known throughout Haiti as Titide) have focused their efforts on developing the University of the Aristide Foundation.
The work to build UNIFA, has taken place in the midst of growing repression within the country. Long overdue elections have not taken place. Police and UN troops using live ammunition, chemical agents and clubs have attacked demonstrators protesting against the Martelly government. President Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected president, has been threatened repeatedly with arrest, with heavily armed police surrounding the Aristides’ home.
Yet UNIFA has persevered. In this new interview, Ms. Aristide details progress made by this groundbreaking university over the last few years. Forged in the fight for democracy and inclusion, UNIFA is a true example of popular education in action.
Haiti Solidarity: First of all, thank you so much for your time. It is an honor for us at Haiti Solidarity to be conducting this interview. Looking back four years ago, to March 18, 2011, the date of your family’s return from exile in South Africa, what do you remember about that moment?
Ms. Aristide: Without a doubt, our accompaniment home from the airport to the front door of the house – where we sat in the car for 15 minutes until a passage could be cleared through the crowd to get inside! It is a moment and a feeling that I’ll never forget. The four of us like to refer to it as a ‘tsunami of love.'