Women attended a talk on breast cancer, children learned about tooth decay, teens heard about pregnancy prevention, parents received information on domestic violence, military and police personnel took notes during a discussion on gender equality, while some attendees did yoga, and others sang along with the band.
All were participants in the inauguration of the Women’s Health Fair on November 29 at the Mauricio Báez Cultural Center in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, as part of activities for the arrival of U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort on humanitarian mission Continuing Promise 2022.
The fair offered medical check-ups, health education and prevention, and training activities for women and their families to empower them by promoting gender equality and violence prevention.
Among the participants was U.S. Army General Laura J. Richardson, commander of U.S. Southern Command, who in her opening remarks, said that while the region and the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, one cannot forget about gender-based violence and femicide, which is a global problem.
“A diverse population that listens to the voices of its men and women is a strong and healthy population. There are many challenges to our health, and gender-based violence and gender-related health problems need not be among them,” Gen. Richardson said. “Since almost three out of four women do not report these crimes, we know this, the numbers are probably higher than what is actually published.”
Gen. Richardson said the fair comes at an opportune time just four days after the world observed the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which was born in recognition of the courageous struggle and sacrifice of the Mirabal sisters, three of the Dominican Republic’s most beloved national figures.
Gen. Richardson applauded the efforts of the Dominican government in its national plan for gender equality and equity. She also recalled the importance of the visit of the USNS Comfort, which will be in the country for 10 days, where it is expected to provide medical attention to some 7,000 patients and impact some 35,000 Dominicans.
The Dominican Republic is the fourth of five countries to which the Continuing Promise 2022 mission is bringing medical, dental, and veterinary care; subject matter expert exchanges, as well as Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) initiatives, among other events.
“In the midst of all the complex challenges we face and that face this region, the Comfort sails as a symbol of the unshakeable bonds between the people of the United States and of the Dominican Republic,” Gen. Richardson said.
Lieutenant Colonel Dominga Madé Zabala, director of Gender Equity and Development of the Dominican Defense Ministry, referred to the advances in gender issues that are being made in the country’s Armed Forces.
“Today in the Dominican Republic we are not talking about the first woman; today in the Dominican Republic, in our Armed Forces, we are talking about women,” said Lt. Col. Zabala. “Women make up 22 percent of our Armed Forces.”
Dominican Minister of Women Mayra Jiménez highlighted the interinstitutional support that the fair received with the participation of the ministries of Defense and Public Health and the Mauricio Báez Foundation, among others.
“Gender mainstreaming throughout the state apparatus is among our main purposes; hence the great efforts we are making for its incorporation in the different functions, as strategies to guarantee a comprehensive approach to public policies for the advancement of women, teens, and girls’ rights, as well as in the range of services available for the prevention and attention to violence against women in all its forms,” Minister Jiménez said. “From an approach based on the promotion of women’s roles, we work on integral rights, including the right to health, which is vital for the full development and participation of women in the different spheres of society.”
Wendy Santos de Díaz, president of the Dominican Association of Military Wives of the Armed Forces (ADEOFA), a non-profit association that works with the support of private, national, and foreign entities to improve the quality of life of soldiers and their families, highlighted the inauguration and operation of the Armed Forces Blood and Blood Derivatives Bank (BANSAHEFA).
“BANSAHEFA has become a reference in its class for the entire Caribbean; it is one of the greatest achievements in social assistance for the benefit not only of our Armed Forces, but of the entire Dominican society,” Santos de Díaz said.
She pointed out that the program Decent Housing for the Soldier (Vivienda Digna para el Soldado) delivered 16 fully furnished houses to service members of different military institutions.
As she walked through the different activities at the fair, Gen. Richardson reminded participants that “at this Health Fair today, we will learn about ways to ensure that every woman, no matter her background, her race, or her education, can climb as high as their hard work can take her.”