Have you given much thought about what it's like to be a 12 year old girl in the Dominican Republic? I don’t mean in terms of statistics, like the fact that the Dominican Republic ranks extremely high in adolescent pregnancy and child marriage in Latin America and the Caribbean, with over 40% of girls becoming teenage mothers and 36% of girls marrying before 18. I mean, have you thought about how that translates to the day-to-day experience of a girl living in Cabarete?
Everyday, girls face cat-calling as they walk down the street and must fight various pressures to drop out of school. As they go about their day they see first-hand the threat of sex-tourism and sex-trafficking that looms over their town. They must manage 2-4 hours of chores, including laundry, cleaning, and babysitting at home, on top of doing well in school. For these reasons, having a safe space is essential to helping the Mariposa girls be the most powerful force for change.
For the Mariposas girls, having their own safe space allows them to develop healthy relationships with mentors and other girls in the community, and feel empowered to make a difference in their lives, the community and the world. They are able to spend quality time with their peers and they have the emotional and physical safe space to learn new things.
At the Mariposa Center for Girls we have the only all-girls basketball court that we know of on the island, allowing them to always be at the center of the game. Girls can learn to swim in the privacy of our own pool without worrying about who is watching. Math and science are learned in an environment where negative stereotypes about what girls can achieve are not welcome. And our space is one where in downtime, they can come and hang out to talk to friends about their day or process what is going on their lives.
Providing this safe space comes at a high cost. We provide transportation to and from the Center every single day so that girls can arrive safely and without harassment. We also have security guards checking in visitors and making sure that those who come to our campus are authorized to be there. Both are vital for successful programming, as they make sure that the Mariposas arrive to the Center safely and that they are safe while they are here. We could not do what we do without your generous support. Thank you for believing in our Mariposa Center for Girls project. You are helping us make sure our safe space remains a safe haven.