“Investing in women and girls is the single most promising economic, political, and social opportunity of our time. 2019 should be the year we treat it that way.”
– Megan O’Donnell
The education and empowerment of women is paramount to reducing poverty and building communities. Rayjon is partnering with a grassroots Haitian Women’s Federation in rural St. Marc to build capacity of local women to advocate for their communities and achieve their goals. Together, we are expanding access to literacy classes, microcredit loans, and training in business, practical skills, leadership and advocacy.
ADULT LITERACY PROGRAM (ALPHA)
The first Rayjon adult literacy class started in 1994 in the rural community of Pinson with a class of 10.
In two years the number of graduates had swelled from 14 to 741! Today, more than 1,650 adults have learned to read and write as well as gained numeracy skills to assist them in earning a living in a market economy.
There are four levels of Alpha literacy training, each taking a year to complete. Level III is equivalent to a Grade 6 level of literacy. Level IV is intended to equip students with leadership and advocacy skills, helping them to work collaboratively as agents of change in their communities.
In Haiti, when you can’t write your name, you are forced to sign your name with an “X.” Imagine the pride and self-confidence gained when you are no longer an “X” but can sign your own name with dignity!
Each class begins with a beautiful Creole song that tells story of “no longer being an ‘X’”.
“How horrible, how insulting, Oh so afraid to sign my name that I must make an X,
Ticking this little X like this one is not right,
This little X, I should not do it again
This year, I decide that I must know how to read and I must know how to write
Come, draw your pencil mark and mark…”
“When I was little, my parents had no possibility of sending me to school… I thank God who sends us this Alpha Program to bring us out of the darkness and let us see the light… On this great day, I know how to write my name.” – Luverlande Joseph
“If I had enough time I would explain what the little crosses (writing an X) have made us suffer …I say ‘No,’ I will not make the small cross (X) again …. I send it to the bottom of the abyss … Thank God and thank you Rayjon Share Care Haiti.” – Fleuridor Ofilia
In cooperation with the Haitian Women’s Federation, Rayjon supports a microcredit program that has provided small loans to over 150 adults in rural Haiti—over 90% women!
- The Microcredit Program provides a mechanism for women to lend and borrow from a village bank fund—built with a combination of funds donated from Canada, and funds contributed by the women themselves. For more than three years they have maintained a 100% repayment rate! Women’s Federation leaders act as liaisons and first vet each individual applying for a loan. Then, as a group, five beneficiaries come together and form an agreement to cover one another’s payment in the event that one of them has difficulty in meeting repayment targets. This system of personal accountability motivates the participants who are responsible to answer to their friends and neighbours, and adds another layer of security to the program.
The microcredit program increases self-esteem, and empowers families to improve their financial situation and better provide for their children. Over 150 adults have received loans to start small businesses. In 2019-2020 we plan to expand the program, providing additional training and resources that will help participants reap even greater benefits from their investments and foster the growth of local economy.
At the C-NEW-C (Centre for Education for Women and Children, formerly called the Sacred Heart Centre) in urban Cap Haitian, LifeSkills Programs are empowering female heads of households experiencing extremem poverty. Training in literacy, numeracy, health & hygiene, nutrition and healthy cooking for a family, practical skills (including sewing) and more is empowering families to gain knowledge to keep their children healthy, prepare nutritious meals, develop self-esteem and create job opportunities. In this way, we help parents to break the cycle of poverty.
EMPOWERING WOMEN IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
In the marginalized neighbourhood of Barrio 41, there is a great need for programs that would provide women in the community with practical skills to help them provide for their families. Many mothers (and children) currently sift through the local garbage dump each day, scavenging for food scraps and any items that can be resold. Rayjon works with a local partner (PLADESCULBA) to provide practical skills training in sewing and horticulture. It is our goal that participants leave with greater confidence and employable skills. A new women’s leadership committee has formed, and participants are eager to start small businesses selling handicrafts, baking, and local goods. In 2019-2020 we are partnering with them to provide basic entrepreneurial training and additional leadership skills. In addition, we are supporting a pilot documentation project to assist families of Haitian decent in obtaining the legal paperwork they need to claim their rights as Dominican citizens (and therefore be able to access better employment, health care and education).