Critique: Madan Sara, power of Haitian women


By Liv Ream, Film Critic

Haitian documentarian Etant Dupain spotlights Madan Sara, a group of women holding Haiti’s economy together. Madan Sara are the women who buy, sell and distribute food and other goods throughout Haiti. The documentary shows the community, solidarity and kinship that it takes to be a Madan Sara while navigating political unrest, social injustice, extortion, theft and suspicious fires.  

The firsthand accounts in this documentary outline the enormous pressure these women face daily and give a voice to this marginalized community. The unrelenting work of the Madan Sara ensures a better life for, not just their immediate family but generations. 

I had the opportunity to interview this documentary’s co-executive producer, Lulaine Childs, to learn about the inspiration of this documentary. Childs gave me a deeper understanding of these women of commerce, “[Dupain’s] mom was a Madan Sara.” The Madan Sara are known for taking on the role of breadwinner for their families. Ensuring a better future for their children while keeping the Haitian economy afloat is the reason this documentary exists. 

I was curious what services could help the Madan Sarah, “For starters, property insurance.” Haiti’s private insurance sector is small with no social assistance options, leaving the Madan Sara vulnerable to theft, loss and fires. Added financial barriers lead the vast majority of the population to loan sharks or other informal credit. The problem with this is not solely the high interest rates, the informal credit lender has no regulations and can charge any interest rate they choose. As the foundation of the Haitian Economy, the lack of security Madan Sara face was shocking to hear from Childs, “There isn’t any real policy to support the Madan Sara.” 

I kept circling back to the fires. These fires are rumored to be carried out by gang members with political ties. The government has not acknowledged these rumors. Without insurance or government protection, the only thing the Madan Sara will not lose in these fires are their debts. The Madan Sara have long lacked power of their finances. Earning less than half that of a man’s wage as well as Haitian women holding a twenty percent higher chance of unemployment begs the question, does this gender bias extend to government lack of action? “Yeah, I would definitely say so […] If there were more men in commerce the issue would be paid attention to more.” 

Etant Dupain is raising funds to host free public screenings in Haitian marketplaces.  If you want to be a part of this effort, here’s how you can contribute: 

The artist is currently using Paypal, which you can find at: 

Childs also provided links to feminist/general organizations you can donate to if you want to give any amount of financial support: