2006: Sonia Pierre, Dominican Republic
Striving to realize the right of Dominican children of Haitian descent to a name and a nationality and for the respect of the fundamental rights of Haitian immigrants in Dominican Republic.
Born in a batey - the name given to settlements for sugar cane cutters working for the Dominican sugar industry- Sonia Pierre grew up experiencing the social, economic, legal and cultural barriers that prevent Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent from enjoying their basic human rights in the Dominican Republic. Sonia went on to study social work and law and took a leadership role in social movement for the rights of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent.
She founded MUDHA (the Movement of Dominican Women of Haitian Descent) in the early 1980s with a group of advocates who decided that they needed an organization specifically to promote empowerment of women in the Dominco-Haitian community. She served as MUDHA's director for 20 years, becoming one of the nation's leading grassroots activists for Haitian immigrants and their children, developing educational programs and works defending the rights of women in the Dominican Republic through promoting labor rights, healthcare, and legal education.
Sonia received national and international attention for spearheading a campaign using public education and legal action to reform and regularize the Dominican Republic's birth registration system, which functionally denies the right to nationality and a legal identity to children of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic. The system has denied the legal documentation necessary to reap the benefits of nationality and citizenship; specifically legal equality, freedom from fear of illegal deportation and access to crucial human rights like healthcare and education.
On December 4, 2011, Sonia Pierre died suddenly from a heart attack. She was a courageous advocate for Dominicans of Haitian descent. In the face of threats and fierce media campaigns attacking her character, she persevered so that Dominican children of Haitian descent could realize their rights to nationality, healthcare, and education. She spent most of her 48 years voicing the demands and concerns of her disenfranchised community on the local and international levels. We will miss her brave voice, but her work will go on. "We will continue Sonia's fight against discrimination, made stronger by her heroic efforts and inspired by her dignity," said Kerry Kennedy, President of the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights. Sonia is survived by her children Solange Manuela, Charlemane Ernesto, Minerva Leticia and Humberto Alejandro, and her grandchildren Gael and Israel.
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