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Empowering women in the Dominican Republic

Plan USA's Global Women's Fund has helped these women in the Dominican Republic improve their household income and security.
Plan USA's Global Women's Fund has helped these women in the Dominican Republic improve their household income and security.

Women's groups in the Dominican Republic benefit from small business development programs

As an international women’s organization dedicated to community improvement, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs is an enthusiastic supporter of Plan’s efforts to empower and improve the lives of women in developing countries.

Donations from the GFWC to Plan USA’s Global Women’s Fund support training and education programs for women in the developing world that help improve their lives. Programs like small business development, adult literacy classes, safe and healthy home construction, leadership training, and maternal and child health programs help empower women so they in turn can empower their communities and shape their own futures.

This past January, Sherry Lynn Dahlstedt, former president of the GFWC Apopka Women's Club from Apopka, Florida traveled with Plan USA to the Dominican Republic to see firsthand what the GFWC and Plan are helping accomplish for women, children and families.

"We had come to the Dominican Republic with no preconceived notions, no ideas of what to expect. We left different women. We were humbled. We had experienced every emotion from laughing hysterically to sobbing. We were on the top of the mountain one day and sliding down it the next."

What does empowerment look like?

Sherry met Plan field staff, children, families and community leaders and was introduced to a number of projects made possible through the support of Plan child sponsors and donors, like the GFWC. In addition to visiting a school media group, a children’s daycare, and a women’s savings and loan group, Sherry also sat in on a ladies’ sewing club benefiting from the Global Women’s Fund.

“Our first stop was to visit a ladies sewing group in Azua. This is the group that GFWC has been helping through Plan’s Global Women’s Fund. With the help of Plan, these ladies came up with an idea, figured out how to implement it, and acquired a building, sewing machines, material, etc. They wanted to earn money by sewing and selling school uniforms for the children in their community. I can’t describe to you the quality of these items. In addition, they are making curtains, bedspreads, bathroom items as well as kitchen items such as aprons, mitts, appliance covers and more.

One of the treadle sewing machines used by the ladies' sewing club in Azua, Dominican Republic. Photo by Plan staff “The real eye opener about all of this is that they sew on old treadle machines! They can’t count on having electricity, so they had to adapt. It just amazed us that anyone could sew anything on one of these machines, let alone the fact that the items were flawless!

“We couldn’t express enough to these women how proud they should be for their accomplishments. This is when we really began to understand more about Plan. So many people automatically assume that an agency is just going to hand over the money and wish them good luck. The pride these people have is due to the fact that they were able to decide for themselves what would work for them and how they could implement it.

“These people may be poor according to our standards, but they are rich in so many ways. Their accomplishments are unbelievable. You could see the pride not only in their stance, but in the look in their eyes. They were determined to carry out each and every goal they had set for themselves. They believe that everything they have is important. And, more importantly, they achieved all of this with the help of one organization . . . Plan.”

Helping women find sustainable ways to increase their incomes

In the Dominican Republic, small business development — such as the ladies’ sewing club — is making a big difference for women and their families. Women are learning marketable skills such as tailoring, commercial fishing and vending that will help them earn a steady income.

Belonging to a group means that no one has to go it alone. The women see the power of the group and the possibilities for their futures.

How can you help women improve their income?

Donate today!Donate now to the Global Women's Fund! Your gift will help women in Azua, Dominican Republic acquire the technical skills and business acumen needed to improve their household income and ensure their economic security.

To learn more about opportunities for your organization to reach out internationally and empower women, contact