In March, Roots of Development celebrated International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month by launching a series of new workshops. We wanted to update you on those workshops and the state of our Women’s Leadership and Empowerment program on La Gonave. Haiti’s economy is fueled by the labor — paid and unpaid — of women. The country relies heavily on its informal sector. According to a 2021 IADB report on gender in Haiti, 95% of the country’s business is informal, and 3 in 4 women are employed informally. These women tend to be less educated and earn lower incomes than men.
Women are also drastically underrepresented in public office — making up only 11% of parliament. This lack of representation affects society’s perception of women, and more than that, women’s perceptions of themselves. That’s why Roots and our partner in Haiti, Rasin Devlopman, have focused on identifying female leaders in their communities and empowering women to take greater agency in their lives.
Women’s Leadership Workshops
In March of 2021, we worked with Rasin to identify 25 influential women on La Gonave — 14 elected officials, 3 entrepreneurs, 1 nurse, 1 community health worker, 2 teachers, and 4 Volunteers for Change — and brought them together to honor their work and form a network of strong female leaders on the island.
This network has led to a series of workshops being implemented across the island, which bring successful women from La Gonave and mainland Haiti into communities to lead conversations on topics like women’s rights, civic engagement, entrepreneurship, and more.
Five workshops have already taken place this year in different locations on the island, and more are scheduled. With 20-25 participants in each workshop, we have already added an additional 100 women to the program. Rasin Devlopman and its facilitators are helping develop a network of La Gonavian women who are more economically and politically empowered.
Another new program for women was started in 2021—motorcycle courses for young women. 30 women participated in the program last year, and 16 more received their certifications last month. The course helps women control their own transportation, create new economic opportunities, and play a larger role in their community’s development.
The courses also support women’s empowerment — 96% of participants reported an increase in confidence and self-esteem. Projects like these are how Roots of Development and Rasin are creating lasting change on La Gonave.