CIPAF takes on women’s rights

The Centro de Investigación para la Acción Femenina (CIPAF) is a feminist NGO in the Dominican Republic. They focus on creating gender equality and eliminating the abuse of women.

As seen in this blog post, women’s rights and abuse in women is a massive problem in the Dominican Republic right now. CIPAF aims to change this through various objectives and programs. Translated from their website, they wish to “contribute to the development of Dominican women through the promotion of their equal participation in all areas of economic, social and political life.”

They work on these objectives alone and with the help of various NGOs around the world as well as internationally recognized organizations and governments.


CIPAF stop domestic violence campaign poster


CIPAF has many campaigns and projects they are working on. They work under a feminist agenda as well as a gender equality one. They frequently post informational blog-like posts to spread their mission and objectives.

-Maria Harper




The Dominican Republic’s battle for women’s rights

In well-developed countries, women face problems with discrimination and abuse. In the Dominican Republic, women’s rights take on a much deeper meaning. In recent years the Dominican Republic has switched from a heavily agricultural based economy, to a more modern and industrial based economy. Even with modern changes the country still faces extreme discrimination against women.

Legislation has been put in place in the past few years; however due to lack of funding, has not been enforced. Such legislation includes a National Plan of Gender Equality. This plan was supposed to start over 6 years ago and end in 2017, but because of budget problems, it was never implemented

Additionally, The Ministry of Women’s Affairs has the second smallest budget in the Dominican government, while the Women’s Advocate Office does not even hold a budget.

Without these programs being funded, the Dominican Republic has seen an extreme raise in domestic violence against women as well as femicide.

“The term “femicide” is used to describe the killings of women and girls because of their gender.” –

According to the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights, 20% of women aged between 15 and 49 have experienced some form of physical violence in their life and 30% of married women or those in relationships have suffered emotional, physical or sexual violence at the hands of their husband or partner

After receiving these alarming statistics about the abuse rates of women in the Dominican Republic, the Centro de Investigación para la Acción Femenina (CIPAF) has put many programs in place to eliminate gender violence against women and create gender equality. To learn more about with CIPAF does please read this or visit

-Maria Harper

Guatemala to Eliminate Mental Asylum, Improve Health System


By Ian Van Buren

In the 1960s, the United States began to replace its mental asylums with much improved community based psychiatric treatment facilities. Today, poorly operated mental asylums still exist around the world. In Guatemala, the country’s only public psychiatric institution is nothing short of a disaster.

In 2011, Disability Rights International began an investigation over the country’s mental asylum with help from local advocates. In October 2012, the group filed a scathing complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an arm of the Organization of American States, documenting widespread mistreatment of patients, including sexual assaults and exploitation, beatings, prolonged use of solitary confinement, deaths from infectious diseases and overdoses of psychiatric medication.

Donald Robas, a patient with paranoid schizophrenia, has witnessed much of the mistreatment and has described the activity of the patients and the asylum’s personnel; if a patient refuses their medication, they are beaten and then put into what is known as the “little room”, a cell where they are left in solitude. Women can be seen selling themselves for what equates to less than a dollar. “I see when they have sex for money,” he says. “To buy food.”

At first, the Guatemalan Health Ministry denied most of the allegations. Regardless, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found the charges credible and directed Guatemalan authorities to improve safety and health at the hospital immediately. A year of negotiations concluded in October with a groundbreaking agreement by Guatemala to overhaul hospital policies and restructure the country’s mental health system.

Guatemala has promised to establish a program that, within two years, will significantly reduce the population of those who are mentally ill or disabled serving in long-term institutions and relocate them to safer, community-based homes, such as those used in the United States. New inpatient psychiatric units are to be opened at general hospitals, while outpatient mental health care and support, including free medication, will be made available at dozens of community health centers throughout the country. Criminally charged psychiatric detainees will be separated from ordinary patients, and a law codifying substantial new legal protections for the mentally ill and disabled is to be introduced within a year.

“The government accepts that people with disabilities need to be integrated into the community. They recognize that the only way to make people safe is to get them out of the facility,” said Eric Rosenthal, executive director of Disability Rights International. “If we can do it in Guatemala, we can do it everywhere.”

Guatemala is certainly not the only country where abusive, problematic institutions still exist. In order for the issue to cease, citizens and human rights organizations must continue to work through the media to spread awareness in effort to help those who remain in distress.

YouTube link regarding a similar story:

Original article:

Poverty Remains an Issue in Costa Rica

El Hueco

By: Ian Van Buren

Costa Rica is obviously well known as a beautiful island and a major tourist attraction where people can relax in paradise. What most people don’t know is that sitting just behind the perfect beaches and glamorous resorts are neighborhoods where life is a constant struggle.

One of these neighborhoods, El Hueco, or ‘The Hole’, is just that. It’s a community in Jacó of about 100 people who live in single room, shanty homes that are missing doors and windows. Running through the lot of shacks is a river contaminated by sewage. Living conditions are harsh, but somehow El Hueco’s residents find ways to make ends meet.

As ironic as it is that poverty can be found just behind all-inclusive resorts and elegant restaurants, these tourist attractions are the only employment options for El Hueco and other neighborhoods like it. “Jacó doesn’t produce anything,” one resident explains. “If there wasn’t tourism, we wouldn’t have jobs.” Some families living in The Hole manage to live off less than $500 a month, and during difficult times, they are left with no choice but to beg tourists for money.

To grow up in El Hueco and receive an education, even if only elementary, is an enormous accomplishment. Although school is free, bus transportation and uniforms are not. Therefore only a fraction of the children in the community are able to attend classes. In an effort to save money, families use a rotation system where multiple children take turns going to school and will share a single uniform.

The municipality of Garabito is an occasional source of extra income. Home to about 22,000 people and encompassing Jacó and Herradura, the municipality works closely with anti-poverty programs, such as Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social (IMAS), which is funded by the national government. The organization helps poor children get an education and provides aid to families in times of crisis. A new community center under development will also provide free afterschool programs.

According to Garabito Deputy Mayor Karla Gutierrez, volume is the biggest issue. With the tourism in Jacó creating job possibilities, people continue to arrive in search of opportunities. “If we take out two people, six will enter. The problem is there’s no control,” she said.

The problem exists in communities all over Costa Rica, and programs like Avancemos and the National Volunteer Program have been established to raise the standard of living. Avancemos aims to promote the formal education system and help adolescents from families who are struggling to keep their children in the educational system. The National Volunteer Program promotes building healthy societies through social participation that will guide Costa Rica’s development of a new model of social management.

According to the World Bank, as of 2012 poverty in Costa Rica is a staggering 20.6%, which is down from 21.6% in 2011.

Original article:

More info on the Avancemos program:

More info on the National Volunteer Program:

Puerto Rico statistics via The World Bank:


Nicaragua’s Controversial Women’s Rights


Zoilamérica Ortega Murillo, allegedly abused stepdaughter of President Daniel Ortega

By: Abby Belongy

Since 2006, the World Economic Forum has released an annual Global Gender Gap Report, ranking nations based on gender disparities in economic, politics, education, and health.  Iceland came in 1st as the best nation for gender equality in 2013; the U.S. is 23rd.  Nicaragua cracks the top 10 at a surprising #9.  The country has a well-respected female Chief of Police and a wildly popular First Lady. The director of a pro-life organization states that “Nicaragua has the strongest feminist movement in Latin America.”  According to the quantitative data included in the report, Nicaragua ranks high in all 4 categories.  Its highest rank is in Political Empowerment, where it claims the 5th spot.  This stems from a law, approved by President Daniel Ortega, requiring women to hold 50% of all party and government positions.

However, women in Nicaragua argue that things aren’t quite as ideal as they appear.  For example, several women’s rights activists claim that women hold superficial political positions.  While they may have a respectable title, they cannot actively participate in the government and voice their opinions.  In many ways, they are only there to give off the appearance of an equal Nicaragua without having any real power.

Much more troubling, however, is the country’s problem of violence against women.  According to a report by Catholics for the Right to Choose, there were 50 cases of femicide in Nicaragua in 2013, and that was only through July.  Although supposedly 9th in closing the gender gap, Nicaragua has the 2nd highest rate of domestic violence in Latin America – one in three women report physical abuse.  A large majority of these women do not seek help.  They often feel shame and believe nothing will be done to punish the men.

Perhaps the case brought against President Daniel Ortega exacerbated this fear.  Zoilamérica Ortega Murillo, Ortega’s own stepdaughter, first accused him of sexual abuse in 1998.  Now 45, she alleges that the now-President abused her from the age of 11.  Back in 1998, the court rejected her charges (even if her charges were accepted, the president is immune from any criminal prosecution).  With the help of the Inter-American Human Rights Council, Ortega Murillo’s case was legitimized.  However, her own mother (and Ortega’s wife) pushed her to drop the charges, and she complied in 2008.  Recently, though, Zoilamérica Ortega Murillo has reaffirmed her original claims of sexual abuse.

This case shows just how far Nicaragua still has to go.  Not only were the woman’s complaints rejected by the court, but she also faced pressure from other women (in this case, her own mother) to withdraw her charges.  On top of that, Daniel Ortega overwhelmingly won presidential elections while this took place.  This gives women the impression that no one will care or fight for their rights and safety.  Men will continue to get away with the abuse that is already entirely too prevalent in the country.  Quantitative reports may be the only way to get a great amount of information from all countries, but as we can see in Nicaragua, they clearly do not show the full picture.

Health Care Worker’s Strike ends in Panama


By: Alex Dmuchovsky

After a month-long strike, the health care system in Panama is finally back in full operation. Starting on September 27th, a group of Panamanian doctors launched an ‘indefinite strike’ following the country’s National Assembly approval of a bill that sanctioned the recruitment of foreign medical professionals, dubbed “Law 611.”

The medical profession argues that Law 611 seeks to privatize health care, however Health Minister Javier Díaz has stated that the bill only intended to extend health services to hard-to-reach areas without their having to depend upon private clinics. La Estrella de Panamá quotes Díaz as having said, “When a person can’t get a medical specialist, what he has to do is go to a private clinic or move to the capital. It’s incredible to me that what COMENENAL wants is to keep this bill from passing so that people will have to keep on going to the interior of the Republic or go to private clinics.”

The group of medical professionals responsible for the strike, the Panamanian Commission of Medical Negotiations (Comisión Médica Negociadora Nacional, or COMENENAL), firmly believe that doctors & nurses, technicians, and health professionals are being left completely unprotected under the terms of the bill. According to them, the “employment stability” of everyone in the field of medicine and health will be drastically affected, and not for the better.

The medical profession has become increasingly unpopular with the citizenry, due to both the oftentimes outrageous demands that are made by groups such as COMENENAL, as well the frequency with which they conduct such strikes. There has been some debate that doctors work both sides of the industry, seeing patients in both public and private clinics. Additionally, citizens are concerned that the health sector so willingly strikes for their own gain, while estranging thousands of patients who desperately need the care. As Soraya Castellano puts it: “Health worker strike due to passing of a bill permitting the hiring of foreign doctors. Deficit of over 6,000 health professionals.”

Patients can now rest easy however, at least for the moment, as health professionals and government officials worked out an agreement this November. According to The Panama News, health care workers won all but a few demands. Still unfinished are negotiations concerning the jobs of union activists fired prior to the strike for “disrespecting management.”

Although current negotiations are, for all intents and purposes, complete — it is apparent that Panama is in the midst of a crisis between its government and its health system. The current government in what appears to be questionable practices, and Panama’s health profession’s abuse of its responsibilities to patients are both factors that lead one to believe this is not the last we’ll hear about the healthcare in Panama.

Find out more about Panama’s: doctor shortage


Jamaican Officials Turn Attention to Battle Against Slavery

By: Ian Van Buren

Recently, the 2013 Global Slavery Index was released. The index reveals accurate estimates of the amount of slavery that exists around the world, listing the number of enslaved people by country. The index lists India as No. 1, the largest offender, with 13.9 million people living under conditions of slavery. In terms of prevalence, Mauritania tops the list with 151,000 people living as slaves – nearly 4% of the country’s total population of 3.8 million. Haiti follows with 209,000 of its 10 million residents living under such conditions.

Of the 162 countries measured by the Global Slavery Index, Jamaica ranks far down the list at 124, and is recorded as having 2,400 enslaved of its 2.7 million people. Although that number is low, many people like Danny Roberts, head of the Trade Union Educational Institute at the University of the West Indies is upset that the issue exists, and that Jamaica fares worse in the category than most of its neighboring countries like Barbados or Cuba.

“I am certainly not happy with the status of our ranking, which clearly indicates that much more work has to be done in terms of dealing with human trafficking and the exploitation of our children, which are the two areas of concern,” Roberts said.

The Global Slavery Index classifies victims of modern slavery as anyone who has their freedoms denied and are used, controlled and exploited by another person for profit, sex or the thrill of domination. The index explains that modern slavery is different, takes many forms and is represented by human trafficking, forced labor, slavery or slavery-like practices, forced or servile marriage, or the sale and exploitation of children, including modern conflicts.

Many agree that targeting the problem starts with improving the lives and culture of Jamaica’s children. The Youth and Culture Minister, Lisa Hanna, has promised a United Nations Committee that special attention will be directed toward child exploitation.

Hanna told a United Nations Third Level Committee on the Rights of the Child, with focus placed squarely on breaking the back of the problem, that a ministerial team has been pursuing a policy-based agenda committed to the transformation of the culture of how the society cares for and protects children.

The minister said that the country’s child-protection actions are contained in the emerging National Framework of Action for Children 2012-2017. “It speaks to the responsibility of the State, as well as the seminal role to be played by parents,” Hanna said.

The 2013 Global Slavery Index:

To learn more, follow the link to the original article:

51+ years since women’s suffrage, Bahamians still fight

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

By Mark Kinder

In 1962, women gained the right to vote in the Bahamas.  This came about after the Burma Road Riots of 1942, the General Strike of 1958, the Labour Movement of the 1950s, and civil rights movements.  Since then, Janet Bostwick became the first woman elected to the House of Assembly.  Bostwick leads symposiums, like last year’s, with presentations  by relatives of the women who led the movement and pushed for equal rights.  Today, her argument is that women’s rights are not being advanced.  “We have become complacent, materialistic and quiet. We have never been more educated, nor have we ever enjoyed greater levels of influence, yet this is hardly reflected in our involvement in seeking social justice and true equality. It is shameful,” Bostwick says.

Advocates continue to encourage women to educate themselves on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  This convention, ratified in 1993,  “pragmatically evaluates the efforts of member countries, to assist and encourage them to best meet their obligations. As a body, CEDAW works to hold governments accountable, and to advocate on behalf of women across the world,” according to Ministry of National Security, Missouri Sherman-Peter.

Included was an issue that is still prevalent all over the world: the marginalization of women. It was specifically highlighted with single mothers, disabled, and immigrant women. “A lot of times they don’t get the support that they need. And we are not just talking about financial support. Sometimes there is a need for housing that does not exist or a person who is in real distress. A lot of times these women are with children. These are some of the issues that we need to be concerned about and that is what I talked about,” said Donna Nicolls, activist and volunteer counsellor at the Crisis Centre.


Castro Attempting to Unite Cuba


Cuban Peso – CUP (left) and Cuban Convertible Peso – CUC (right)

By: Abby Belongy

Cuba’s dual currency system has been stratifying people since it was implemented after the fall of the Soviet Union two decades ago.  Originally intended to protect Cuba from capitalism, the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) is equivalent to the U.S. dollar.  Tourists and the wealthier islanders use CUCs.  The majority of Cubans, however, earn the other form of currency, the Cuban peso (CUP).  This is worth only about 4 cents – 25 times less than that of the convertible peso.

Cubans have long complained about the dual system.  Most Cubans can only earn CUPs but can only buy imported goods with CUCs.  This leads to the rich accumulating more and more material goods while the poor struggle to purchase basic necessities.  Interestingly, a hotel clerk could also earn a much larger salary from tourists’ tips than a doctor who treats national patients.

On October 29, 2013, President Raul Castro announced an 18-month plan to unify Cuban currency into a single Cuban peso.  Castro hopes to improve and open up the Cuban economy with a fairer and less complicated system.  Most people currently earning CUPs embrace this decision.

However, Castro has not provided many details on how such a complicated process will work.  Although most want a unified system, economists worry about the practical issues.  Eliminating the two-tiered system could drive up inflation and cause public turmoil.  State-run enterprises will also suffer, as right now government treats the CUP and the CUC as equal in official accounts – a huge financial incentive.

This step could show Cuba warming up to the rest of the world and attempting to come out of isolation, though Castro insists this process is necessary for Cuba’s survival as a socialist state.  If executed methodically and carefully, the unified system could make a huge impact on marginalized people in Cuba.  The poor majority can improve quality of life and have a chance to “catch up” to the elite.  On the other hand, the elimination of one of the pesos could shock the economy and bring even more economic turmoil to already struggling citizens.

Read more on Cuba’s monetary system and plans:

Court rejects citizenship to Dominicans of Haitian descent


By Ian Van Buren

On September 23, 2013, the Dominicans Republic’s top court issued a ruling that has put thousands of individuals in trouble. The ruling found that any and all individuals of Haitian descent, even those born in the Dominican Republic, no longer hold citizenship. According to the Open Society Justice Initiative, at least 200,000 people will be affected by the decision.

As neighboring countries, Haiti and the Dominican Republic have a history of racial tension. For generations, Haitians have migrated across the border to lead a better life, albeit one in which they are employed as maids, construction workers, and as fieldworkers on sugar cane plantations. Now, officials have ruled that even individuals who were born Dominican and have never been outside of the country can no longer be considered legal citizens if they are of Haitian descent.

Ana María Belique, 27, was born in the Dominican Republic and has never lived anywhere else, but has been unable to register for college or renew her passport because her birth certificate is no longer accepted. “I am Dominican. I don’t know Haiti. I don’t have family or friends there. This is my home.”

Several reports indicate that there has long been an issue of racial discrimination against Haitians pursuing official documents, and Dominican civil registry officials have denied citizenship to children of migrants by considering their parents “in transit”.

Migrants are concerned that they won’t have access to health benefits without possession of a Dominican ID. Dominican officials have denied the claim that the court’s ruling is discriminatory.

More info: