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Aug 3, 2016

Empowering Girls Means Empowering Communities

Darline Richard, with her daughter Elis Naika
Darline Richard, with her daughter Elis Naika

Over the years, working in our communities of Petit Trou, it's been difficult to hear about the struggles facing women and girls living in rural Haiti. We’ve heard stories of the violence women experience at home and seen the difference in opportunities that exist for men versus women. We know the situation is an intersection of complex social, cultural, economic and historical factors that has no easy solution. Last year, we launched a new program to address this inequality by targeting girls between 10 and 18 years old. We noticed there was a disproportionate number of girls moving to the later levels of their schooling compared to the amount of girls who started pre-school. We know through UN studies that, in the Caribbean region, each dollar invested in education for youth provides a return of 12.7% for each additional year of schooling. This benefit is even higher in the case of teenage girls with access to secondary school (18% return per year). As we continue to support access to quality education in the Nippes region one of our main goals over the next five years is to increase the number of girls who complete grades 1-9 at St. Paul’s school from 15% to 50% and have an equal impact at the national school in Petit Trou of young women completing high school.

By investing in teenage girls, an objective being echoed by larger international institutions and government agencies in Haiti, we are investing in the entire community. On July 11 for World Population Day, the United Nations in Haiti reiterated its support to invest in youth, particularly in teenage girls, as a key priority to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Development Agenda. In an interview with a main new source in Haiti, UN expert in development Marielle Sander asserted, “To advance economic growth and development in Haiti, it is really important that each teenage girl has the right to have control over her own body and over her future. A pregnancy by choice, not by chance".  A national statistic that could also reflect the situation in Petit Trou estimates 11% of adolescent girls in Haiti have already had at least one baby. She emphasized that investing in adolescent girls’ rights and empowering them to plan their families is essential to benefit from possibilities of economic growth.

And we know that empowering girl's education WORKS: study after study after study shows that globally, the more education a girl gets, the healthier and wealthier she will be as an adult woman in her community.  Increasing education for teenage girls correlates to decreased death during childbirth, increased neo-natal survivability, increases to age of marriage and to age of first childbirth, increased quality of their children's nutrition, increases in general employment, and decreases the pay gap between men and women.

Colorado Haiti Project's Girl's Empowerment and Mentoring (GEM) Program consists of three main activities. The first is to provide extra educational support and mentoring to girls vulnerable of dropping out through clubs called Safe Spaces. Female teachers from the area are providing additional time and energy to be mentors to 50 girls at St. Paul’s and 50 girls at the national high school. Another function of the clubs is to provide opportunity for peer-to-peer support to overcome problems unique to girls in this rural context. Secondly, there is education and outreach to girl’s families and the broader community. Community gatekeepers and change agents are receiving materials and training to prepare them to deliver messages around the importance of investing in girls education and key themes around gender based violence and sexual and reproductive health. Lastly, there will be scholarships for continuing education and role modeling for young women. Young women chosen to receive the scholarships will be expected to return to the community for at least 3-5 years, and promise to work as mentors with young girls at St. Paul’s and the Petit Trou High School.  It has been estimated that for every dollar invested in the training of midwives, there is a 16 fold return for the economy. For this reason, we want to support women who are considering professional education in midwifery as well as teaching, nursing, accounting, and other technical skills including agriculture and computers.  

In closing, allow us to introduce you to Darline Richards. She is a young woman from Petit Trou who has proven potential and a deep desire to help her community.  A few years ago, she became a scholarship student supported by CHP, and is currently studying to become a pre-school teacher so she can one day return to her home and teach. She is also an enthusiastic supervisor and mentor for the GEM Program. She stated her community has wanted to address the serious problem for girls but hasn’t been able to until now with the support the Colorado Haiti Project. She says “GEM is essential because it gives girls another vision and dream for their lives. Support groups and extra education will help the girl’s mature more and give them more structure in their lives. Having 16 year olds pregnant in the community is very sad for us. We need a program like GEM; it is very important for our community.” We stand committed to supporting our friends in Petit Trou grow the leaders of tomorrow and doing what we can to ensure women and girls have an equal access to opportunity.

May 11, 2016

Girl Power!

Girl Power!

The Colorado Haiti Project (CHP) and our partners at St. Paul’s school understand that when a girl has the opportunity to go to school and finish her education that this access to knowledge and resources develops her mind, and empowers her to make her voice heard as a leader and active agent for change in her community.   We understand that she is more likely to marry later if she has more years of schooling, and her children will be twice as likely to attend primary school than if she had not received an education herself.


We understand that if we are to achieve long-term and sustainable positive change and development in Petit Trou that we need to scale-up our support to girls at St. Paul’s school and the surrounding community.  In April of this year CHP launched a five-year initiative aimed at increasing the number of girls who complete grades 1-9 at St. Paul’s school from 15% to 50%.  We know that 50% is too low, but, we also understand that to meet this goal cultural norms and economic practices must shift; and community buy-in for long term uptake will take time.   


Program Launched!


1)  Girl’s Support and Mentoring Program:  

In late March the CHP launched our Girl’s Empowerment (GEM) program at St. Paul’s.  Our first efforts focused on partnering with the Haitian Adolescent Girl’s Network to implement a detailed resource survey at St. Paul’s and the surrounding community.  The information from this survey will help guide program activities that we will conduct with the girls at school, and with their families and other community members.  It will give us a good picture of resources that are available to girls at the school and in the surrounding community, and highlight where there are gaps.  


Our next step will focus on training teachers and local female leaders at St. Paul’s, as well as at the high school in Petit Trou, to develop a program for girls ages 8-18 that will provide education and mentoring opportunities aimed at keeping girls engaged with school and their education.  Teachers will receive training and educational materials from Haitian instructors on how to better support girls at school, and more appropriately address the unique difficulties often faced by girls.  CHP will also pilot a peer education program using materials tested and proven elsewhere in Haiti that focus on healthy lifestyles and peer- to- peer support to resolve common problems.   


2)  Education and Outreach to Girl’s Families and the Broader Community:   

CHP knows that many times even if a girl is doing well in school and wants to continue her education, that she is often compelled to leave school by her family to help at home.  CHP is using our access to community leaders to disseminate key messages and information to the broader community around the importance and benefits of letting girls complete their education.  Community leaders receive materials and training to empower them to deliver messages during community events such as town councils, growth monitoring, markets, and home visits.  


Bringing in the support of community leaders, and coupling that with our girl’s empowerment activities at St. Paul’s, we hope to fundamentally shift the participation of girls in continuing education both at, and beyond St. Paul’s.  

The GEM Initiative is just one of several new educational and empowerment opportunities that CHP is supporting through our partners at St. Paul’s.  Only through your support have we been able to arrive at this position, and it will be only through your support that we will be able to continue to ensure that kids have all the opportunities they can to succeed and create a stronger Petit Trou de Nippes, and a better Haiti.   


Feb 12, 2016

The Future of Connectivity in Petit Trou, Haiti

Connecting St. Paul’s School

In Petit Trou, Haiti electricity and the Internet is very hard to come by. Right now, the only source of connection is through a phone data plan, which is not sufficient for classroom learning.

In the fall of 2015, with the help of a Microsoft team member, the Colorado Haiti Project began working towards computer literacy and connectivity. While we have yet to receive Internet access, we have started teaching up-to-date computer skills including typing, Microsoft Office and even an English Language program to students starting in 4th grade.  The students start each day with their typing practice. Right now they are all working on autobiographies in Word and a classroom PowerPoint.

This January, the teachers at St. Paul’s each purchased a computer through a matching fund from the Colorado Haiti Project. They expressed their concerns over the last year about feeling behind in their own computer knowledge and felt they would be better able to support their students with improved computer skills and Internet access. When they received their new computers, the teachers attended a four-day training seminar and learned about the same programs their students are using. They can connect to the Internet by traveling to a nearby community to further their work. The teachers plan to use the computers to research, track classroom activities, write up lesson plans and to help others to learn computer literacy.

Our hope is to have Internet access for the school during the 2016-2017 school year. In the meantime, the campus is preparing to take full advantage of the computer literacy courses, learning from their connected teachers and getting in lots of typing practice!

Thank you for you continued interest and support in our programs and we look forward to sharing our progress with you! 


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