Mariposa DR Foundation – for the empowerment of girls

By Denise Nanni and Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the
following our interview with the Mariposa
DR Foundation
located in the Dominican Republic, and working for the
empowerment of adolescent girls to struggle against poverty transmitted from
one generation to the next. Empowerment is the key factor, when it is about
struggling against poverty.

What are the main gender issues in Dominican Republic?
Mariposa DR Foundation (MDRF) works to end generational poverty through the
empowerment of adolescent girls in Cabarete, Dominican Republic. Girls in this
community face very high risks of sex trafficking. Additionally, the DR has the
19th highest rate of child brides around the world and early pregnancy is a
widespread problem. Fewer than 20 percent of all girls in the DR will make it
past the 8th grade. Many girls are forced to drop out of school to take care of
younger siblings or other domestic chores. Often times, the cycle of poverty
continues for generations with young mothers struggling to care for their
teenage daughters who subsequently also get pregnant at an early age. Despite
all this there is hope for the future. Although these girls are held back by
nearly every problem, with empowerment, they are the key to every solution.
What are the main
obstacles to girls’ empowerment nowadays?

Obstacles continue to be
breaking down traditional gender roles so that parents, educators, government
official officials, and community members, value girls and their meaningful
contributions to society. We want these constituents to value girls for more
than domestic workers, potential wives or mothers, so that they too invest in
opportunities for girls. 

What are the means
through which your the Mariposa DR Foundation promotes their empowerment and

In Cabarete, less than 20% of
girls make it to secondary school. At the Mariposa Center for Girls we are
changing that statistic.

The Mariposa Center for Girls is
a 5000 m2 plot of land near the entrance to Cabarete’s largest Dominican
neighborhood, La Cienega. Since the Mariposa DR Foundation moved in at the end
of 2012 it has transformed into a fun, beautiful, and safe center where girls
ages 8-18 have their very own space to grow, play, and learn.

The girls go to Dominican
schools for a half-day (that’s the way school is in the DR), then come to the
Mariposa Center for the other half of the day. There they receive important
classes like health, English, job training, and swimming while also getting to
participate in many other sports and artistic workshops. The Mariposa DR
Foundation currently sponsors 15 girls’ attendance at a private high school to
assist them in receiving a higher quality education.

Improving the quality and
quantity of education that girls receive is essential for empowering them to be
the leaders in their own lives and make important decisions, such as the
decision to wait to have their rst child until they have graduated from high
school. This is especially important in a country with the highest rate of teen
pregnancy in the Caribbean and one of the highest in all of Latin America,
where teen moms and their children become trapped in the cycle of generational

What are the main
features of yor program Internatoinal awareness?

Experiential and service
learning are at the core of what Mariposa DR Foundation is about. We practice
what we preach. Our girls cannot get visas, in fact-many are stateless, so we
bring the world to them. The girls in our program are becoming educated young
women and leaders of their community because of the hundreds of hours of
experiential and service learning in- cluded in our innovative curriculum
design. The most prestigious schools in the world are now reforming their
curriculum to include components of experiential and service learning.

At the Mariposa DR Foundation we
understand that true cultural immersion begins with respect, solidarity,
sustainability, and compassion. We teach students to honor the ways of others,
to learn from the poor and to value their wisdom and views even though they may
be different, or, especially because they are different.

Do you cooperate with
local authorities and institutions? If yes, how?

We have a close relationship
with a number of local institutions, most especially the local schools. We
support both the private and public schools here in Cabarete. Our girls are
scholarshipped to attend the local day school here in town, and we work closely
with the director to ensure that our girls are receiving the best education and
support possible. Mariposa also makes regular contributions to both the public
and private schools with service projects and donations.

In addition to our
close-knit ties with education institutions, we receive generous support from
local businesses through by exchanging advertising space in our Cabarete
Responsible Tourism and Investment Guide in exchange for goods and service.