To address the lack of opportunities for women and girls in batey communities, Batey Relief Alliance (BRA) will launch a holistic women's empowerment initiative that will support 125 women in adopting market-oriented strategies in agriculture and livestock production and enhance their social wellbeing through providing healthcare services and hygiene products. With their partners, including the Office of the Vice President of the Dominican Republic and GILDAN, the commitment will provide technical assistance, agricultural inputs, and small loans in the agriculture and livestock fields.
BRA’s technical staff will guide women in adopting a 12-month plan to respond to market demands in agriculture and animal husbandry. In-kind inputs (e.g. livestock, feed, seed, fertilizer) and small cash loans (average of $200) will be distributed to catalyze startup of new strategies. Through its Cooperative Microcredit Program—BRAteyana, BRA will renew loans, when possible, to in-good-standing borrowers to allow the women to sustain their agricultural enterprises using their own capital generated from the initial loans. BRA’s technical staff will conduct field-based agricultural training for each participant. BRA will then conduct four follow up visits per beneficiary to ensure the adoption of recommended agricultural practices. BRA will organize two field-based events, linking participating women to area buyers of livestock and produce. BRA will assist each woman in developing a new sales agreement with at least one local buyer, establishing a sustainable business relationship and increasing income.
BRA will also provide privately funded maternal-child health services, HIV antivirals, clean drinking water, multivitamins, antiworm drugs, and nutritional supplements. BRA will invite participating households to apply based on need, with attention to the following criteria: living below poverty line; best potential for agricultural productivity; demonstrated need for healthcare assistance; demonstrated ability/willingness to participate; and need for nutritional assistance.
Lastly, BRA will train 180 males around gender and sexual-based violence against women.
Build capacity of participants in agricultural production:(1) 1/19: Conduct pre evaluation to determine participants’ socio-economic conditions, (2) 1/19: Conduct household survey to evaluate gender equality and response approaches, (3) Quarterly: Offer technical assistants around agricultural development techniques, (4) Monthly: Offer skills training building cooperative, banking, small business enterprises, (5) 2/19: Provide micro loans to engage in income-producing activities, (6) 10/19: Conduct Harvest Day, (7) 6/19: Help participants develop production/marketing/sales strategies, (8) 10/19: Conduct results evaluations, (9) Quarterly: Conduct follow-up meetings, (10) 11/19: Conduct post evaluation to determine impacts, (11) 12/19: Hold Graduation Day.
Build capacity of participants in preventive health: (1) Monthly: train participants as community health promoters, (2) Monthly: hold workshops around WaSH techniques, (3) Bi-monthly, weekly: provide participants access to maternal-child health, micronutrients, clean drinking water, and nutrition.
The “bateyes” are highly vulnerable rural communities settled around sugar cane plantations. They were built by the Dominican government to house Haitian migrant cane cutters when sugar production was the primary source of revenues for the Dominican Republic, more than two decades ago. The privatization and automation of the national sugar industry in the early 1990s left batey residents without employment, leaving thousands without purchasing power. As a result, many women turned to transactional and commercial sex for survival. Estimates of the population living and working on these bateyes vary greatly, ranging from 200,000 to over 1 million, and accounting for anywhere between 7-12% of the nation’s total population. Despite their size and critical role in the Dominican economy, batey populations, particularly women and girls, suffer inordinately from gender inequality, economic isolation, and extreme poverty.
Most of the women and girls are undocumented and therefore cannot formally obtain education, employment or publicly-funded services; own land or a home; open a bank account or have credit; and consequently, are condemned to a circle of poverty. Their reproductive and sexual rights are often violated while face some of the nation’s highest illiteracy, HIV, pregnancy and unemployment rates. Fertility reaches as high as 4.0, well above the 2.8 national averages. Only 1.2% of the women reported using condoms for protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. The national HIV infection rate is 1% versus 5% in the bateyes.
Women and girls also face gender and sexual-based violence. Despite laws against domestic violence being in force for years, violence against women and girls continues to rise. And, those who are financially dependent are often obliged to remain with their aggressors in dangerous relationships. In recent years, femicide has become one of the leading causes of death among women of reproductive age in the country.
Financial resources are needed to assist beneficiaries who are unable to meet their financial/loan obligations due to unforeseen adverse circumstances; to help beneficiaries scale up their businesses to meet increased local demands; to purchase additional agricultural materials for beneficiaries to expand production and increase revenues; to purchase a truck to transport beneficiary products for sale to local market; and to provide technical (computer) assistance in computer use and other skills.
Best practice information is needed to help strengthen the commitment in areas of agricultural production, marketing and sales; technology; micro finance and gender-based violence management.
Media support is needed to rebuild BRA’s website as a platform to promote its new “Women’s Empowerment Initiative” and the commitment’s results and social-economic impacts.
BRA can offer best practice services in terms of general health expertise, including health and HIV prevention and care delivery, community health promotion, comprehensive health approach to rural health, health program design, etc.