Santo Domingo – The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo hosted a luncheon in honor of Women’s History Month, which is celebrated each month of March in the United States. The luncheon was headed by Mr. Bob Satawake, husband of U.S. Ambassador James W. Brewster and Ms. Meltem Dunn, wife of the U.S. Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission Patrick Dunn.
Prominent Dominican women attended the luncheon, including First Lady, Candida Montilla de Medina, Mrs. Melba Segura de Grullon, President of the Sur Futuro Foundation, and Dominique Bluhdorn, Executive Director of the Arts and Design School Altos de Chavon as well as other forty women known for their dedication to advancing the rights and roles of Dominican women.
During the lunch, Mr. Satawake remarked, “It is important for us to recognize and honor women who provide so much to the development and stability of the Dominican Republic and its democracy. These women are an integral element in the longevity of the relationship between our two nations. I am truly honored to have the opportunity to share ideas with them at our home.”
In 1981, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution establishing National Women’s History Week. In 1987, Congress expanded the week to a month, and since then passed a resolution annually. Congressional action is followed by a U.S. presidential proclamation declaring March as Women’s History Month. This year’s 2015’s celebration of Women’s History month is “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives”. The theme presents the opportunity to weave women’s stories – individually and collectively – into the essential fabric of U.S. history.
Through the years, the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic has had a long history of supporting and promoting the rights of women through various programs including: In October 2014, in honor of the International Day of the Girl, the United States Embassy launched the “Building Life Projects for Girls”, which focuses on reducing the incidence of domestic violence, teenage pregnancy and school dropouts through workshops and career counseling. The project, developed in collaboration with the NGO Mujeres en Desarrollo (MUDE) aimed to address 500 at risk girls of Santo Domingo Norte. As part of the project, the girls attended a series of interactive conferences presented by alumnae from the organization Advancement of Women. The workshops, running from October 2014 to May 2015, concentrates on subjects such as self-esteem, relationship violence, entrepreneurship, gender violence, teenage pregnancy prevention and vocational counseling.
The U.S. Embassy helps empower women in non-traditional roles through agricultural programs such as the USAID Sustainable Cocoa Farming, which has improved the management of cocoa farms by introducing practices that mitigate the effects of drought and improve cacao germplasm. In addition, women’s groups such as the local group of women known as “The Productives” received technical assistance in processing and marketing strategies, and by refurbishing an old communal house to sell their products. As a result of USAID assistance, the Chocolatier Women of the Altamira Basin (CHOCAL) recently received a $280,000 loan from the Special Fund for Agricultural Development provided by the Dominican Government.
Education has been an important pillar that the United States Government has supported in aims of contributing to women’s empowerment on their sexual and reproductive rights and demanding quality services and information on their own health risks. The USG has supported several programs which provided pregnant women with critical information on risks during pregnancy and how to detect warning signs related to their health and that of their newborns.
The USG also supports reducing gender based violence and trafficking in persons. In 2014, the U.S. Embassy hosted a Trafficking In Persons (TIP) speaker Maria Jose Fletcher, human rights lawyer and Founder of Voice for Immigrant Defense and Advocacy (VIDA) legal assistance, an organization in the Miami-Dade area that provides pro bono legal services to immigrants who are victims of trafficking or domestic violence. During her visit, Fletcher shared her TIP expertise and best practices, cross-sector collaboration, and availability of resources amongst Dominican government officials, law enforcement, legal and health professionals, and civil society. Fletcher reached over 200 professionals and government officials, 100 Dominican university students, and approximately 40 at-risk youths in Santo Domingo, Santiago, and Boca Chica on the endemic nature of trafficking, methods of prevention, and the need to develop a uniform rapid-response to facilitate efficient and effective victim services in the Dominican Republic.