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?
The 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 developement?

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 poverty. 


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.