November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and Plan is working with communities in the Dominican Republic to raise awareness of the causes and consequences of gender-based violence.
The Dominican Republic suffers from high rates of domestic abuse, which has been further exacerbated by the recent influx of migrants from Haiti. By running workshops with young people and adults, Plan is helping to ensure that those at risk are aware of their rights and the protection available.
"When I went for the first time to one of Plan's workshops, my husband told me it was nonsense. I was very afraid of him, he assaulted me,” says one attendee, Altagracia. "Then I went to the workshops and learned a lot and realized that women also have rights."
Altagracia is just one of many women to have experienced gender-based violence in the Dominican Republic. In fact, in 2010, around 62,000 cases of violence against women were reported across the country - just four percent of which went to court.
For the majority, escaping from an abusive relationship can be very difficult. Often, dependence on partners for financial and emotional support means that many women and girls suffer in silence for a long time.
Plan’s workshops are helping to empower those at risk by providing them with crucial knowledge around domestic violence, child abuse, gender, rights, support services and the legal system.
So far, we have reached 480 young people and 664 adults this year and, what’s more, the workshops are having a much wider impact as young people and families pass information onto their neighbours.
In Barahona province, 17-year-old Orvis is part of a small team of young Plan volunteers working in their communities to help stop domestic abuse in the area. After school, Orvis spends his time visiting nearby neighbourhoods, talking about the benefits of gender equality and helping to change attitudes towards violence in the home.
“In my village there is a man who used to beat his wife. He didn't think it was wrong and neither did others in the village. I told him that he was committing a crime and, after a few visits, he finally stopped,” says Orvis.
Plan is working with various state actors to enhance the vital awareness-raising efforts of volunteers like Orvis, and also to help strengthen the legal protection and emotional support services available to those experiencing abuse.
Find out more about Plan’s work in the Dominican Republic.