SANTO DOMINGO.—Since its first launching in 2018, the BRA Women’s Empowerment Initiative addressed gender inequality within Dominican Republic’s vulnerable rural communities using a holistic approach by providing women micro loans and skills training, complemented by access to maternal-child health and HIV care, clean drinking water, nutrition, micronutrients and preventive health education in water, sanitation and hygiene and more recently COVID-19. To date, more than 475 women have established their own agricultural or small business ventures and achieved certain degree of economic independence to support their individual and household needs and escape gender-based violence.
In its continuing effort to ensure a more long-term and sustainable growth within impoverished and vulnerable communities, however, Batey Relief Alliance (BRA) partnered with the Florida-based organization CROSS Catholic Outreach to incorporate a “faith-based community organizing” component into its women empowerment work agenda that would not only give women and girls the tools to achieve socio-economic stability, but also a spiritual orientation that would provide for broader community organization, development and growth. “Our goal is to organize, mobilize and educate people to build a sense of community. By doing so, the community will then gain power or influence over issues concerning their welfare,” said Ulrick Gaillard, BRA founder, president and CEO.
Under its new “faith-based community organizing” model, Batey Relief Alliance will inaugurate on July 14th a one-year micro loan pilot project in batey Hoyo de Pum, Municipal District Don Juan, Monte Plata province where the entire community and its 46 households will fully participate in all aspects of program implementation to advance their interests. The BRA Women’s Empowerment Initiative seeks to achieve spiritual and community transformation for the 46 women beneficiaries by empowering them to be local leaders through the following three primary objectives: 1) share Catholic teachings on faith-in-action and compassion with the 46 women beneficiaries to help both themselves and those around them in times of great need; 2) distribute micro loans to the 46 women beneficiaries – educate them on effective agricultural planning, production and marketing – and help them set up small business enterprises to support economic growth for the community; and 3) promote preventative healthcare, hygiene and COVID-19 practices for the 46 women beneficiaries and their children.
Gaillard added that a group of 10 local women organizers will be formed to educate and train the 46 women beneficiaries as empowered health promoters who will then partner with local parishes, government and health entities, political officials and NGOs to identify and confront existing needs and concerns within the community and mobilize/organize its members and other resources to carry out social justice public actions.
The new BRA faith-based micro loan project helps advance the 2030 Agenda through United Nations Sustainable Development Goals #1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8 and 17; and will benefit all persons regardless of their religion, race, national origin, sexual orientation or political affiliation.