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Promoting democratic dialogue on national identity and discrimination of Dominicans of Haitian Descent (DHD) in the Dominican Republic

Reducing discrimination against DHD, advocating for non-discrimination policies and promoting cultural bridges to tackle race-based violence

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Since 2013, thousands of DHD are facing a worsening of their living conditions, due to barriers that limit their accessibility to opportunities for work, education, credit, health, identity, and other human rights, in a context of closing of civic spaces. Why? Because of a Dominican Constitutional Court's ruling that ordered the withdrawal of their nationality based on their Haitian descent (see Annex 1). Thus, it is necessary to build bridges for the DHD community, to generate bonds of fraternity and trust between different sectors, leading to reduce discrimination and foster inclusion. This project aims to promote a plural and democratic dialogue to develop new narratives on national identity from a local perspective, demolishing stereotypes that lead to human rights violations. The project will work with certain change agents: influencers, opinion leaders, journalists, local leaders, organizations, and women and youth among DHD; ensuring that these actors acquire a new approach to address the problem, generating peace actions in response to violent acts and hateful messages currently present in daily narratives. DHD will gain empowerment. The project will pursuit that change agents: *Strengthen their capacities, through a training program to learn how to generate bridges in a creative way and to advocate for human rights in a context of closing spaces. *Lead advocacy actions before authorities responsible for non-discrimination policies, on a national and local level, even using “art-ivism” and other strategies to include youth in advocacy actions. *Lead a campaign, among local media and communities, highlighting good practices of inclusion, with an artistic and cultural approach, in areas of greater vulnerability or greater concentration of DHD in the DR. There will be a public debate on this stateless group, improving opportunities for prosperity, by influencing the social barriers that submits their citizenship to a “second-class” degree.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our main beneficiaries are DHD. By 2017, 253,255 Dominicans were born to Haitian parents (91.4% of DHD), which are indirect beneficiaries. DHD communities are mostly concentrated in poor rural (“bateyes”) and metropolitan areas, where inequality indicators are higher and public investment is limited. Most DHD must face origin- and race-based discrimination, with constant risk of being deported. The direct beneficiaries are the change agents (influencers, opinion leaders, journalists, local leaders, organizations leaders, and women and youth activists among DHD) that add up to 2000 people, 70% women. Most of the direct beneficiaries are in Bahoruco, in the southwest region of the island. These groups will obtain skills and tools necessaries to build spaces for inclusion of DHD as legitimate Dominicans, thus strengthening their influence abilities, to improve their livelihood conditions and building bridges on opportunities to expand peace and prosperity in their communities.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Previous initiatives regarding DHD focused in urgent needs, such as ID documents and legal counselling. Yet lessons from the field show the need to foster new spaces to reflect on how the current national identity creates discrimination and raced-based violence. Thus, our innovative element is the unprecedented strategy of using different tools and influential channels to engage representatives of different collectives in a dialogue regarding the multi-culturalism of “Dominican-ness”. Counting on a platform of journalists, activists and local leaders, we will reach a significant part of the Dominican population by making messages and analyses public, generating debates in civic spaces. Another innovation is the democratization of knowledge about the background and origins of the DHD community. By this, we will help deconstruct the stigmatization and rejection of Dominicans with a connection to Haitian culture, adding value to the richness and diversity of Dominican nationality.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Oxfam has been in DR since 1992, supporting local organizations to advocate against inequality. For this project, we count on our experience working in projects regarding Haitians and DHD for 4 years, through UNDEF and EU projects implemented before on this subject. Our team for this project has our Democracy and Citizenship coordinator (gender and advocacy expert); our Political Inequalities Officer (human-rights lawyer, migrants rights and stateless groups in DR); and our MEAL expert.

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

In May 2018, the IACHR attempted to dialogue with Dominican CSOs that was interrupted by the violent participation of xenophobic groups in the country. Before that, there were violent episodes in Pedernales, as a local group called for the expulsion of “all Haitians and their relatives” from their community. Given this context, we are inspired to help repair social cohesion between DHC and the community, to prevent the increase of race-based violence in the DR and the binational border area.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Many DHD understand peace as the possibility to enjoy community life without harassment or discrimination. Peace is influenced by dynamics and conflicts between DR and Haiti leadership (including disagreements regarding trade and nationality policies); and by the presence of ultranationalist and anti-Haitian groups in the DR, that replicate local imaginaries of the national identity. In our context, prosperity is having our basic needs covered; being able to enjoy one’s rights and having access to proper services and equal opportunities. DHD families are among the poorest of DR and their prosperity is influenced by lack of IDs and stigma against their Haitian heritage. Miguela, a former beneficiary, is an example of this: she had to abandon school because she was bullied and harassed for not having an ID, despite being Dominican. She now has her ID, but she’s still facing discrimination in finding jobs due to narratives about “Dominican-ness” that exclude her because of her origin.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

The project will have a national reach, with a focus in Bahoruco, a southwestern province with one of the largest DHD communities, living in rural or “bateyes” areas. This DHC community has built resilience to take human rights defense actions. We’ll partner with local organizations such as CEDESO, a CSO mostly composed by DHD, with presence in Bahoruco and Santo Domingo. CEDESO has strong links to advocacy networks and coalitions, and is one of the leaders of Dominicanxs X Derecho, a national coalition that advocates for DHD rights, with national influence. Together, we successfully concluded another DHD project funded by UNDEF. Our engagement will allow identifying leaders and other beneficiaries to design and execute an effective influencing strategy to build new narratives on Dominican-ness, helping to keep the project rooted in the needs and perceptions of its members. We’ll also connect local voices with international advocacy platforms, to boost the impact of the project.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Community members have organized to advocate for their rights and influence local governments. Strong links between local organizations that would allow for the development of joint activities to attain social inclusion of DHC in the communities involved. Local CSOs have strong allies among journalists and alternative media and, through previous projects, 8 groups of community reporters were created, composed of 42 leaders, who actively joined the Coalition of “Dominicanos X Derecho”.

Geographic Focus

LAC region; Dominican Republic.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

24 months

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

Attachments (1)

DHD Proposal - Flowchart and Problem Tree.pdf

Project Flowchart that summarizes the circuit of the idea + Problem Tree that reflects root causes and effects of the issue we want to work on.


Join the conversation:

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Dima Boulad & Isaac Jumba Hi! We would love to have your comments on our proposal. We are very excited to apply and want to engage with the community. Best, Elina.-

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Hi Elina,
Thanks for sharing your idea. I like that you have clearly communicated the problem that you are hoping to solve, and suggested an inclusive approach on this. I have a few thoughts and I hope Dima Boulad can also jump in:
1. Beyond promoting dialogue, what sort of other sustainable interventions have you thought about? or how might you structure dialogues to be community driven, and to go beyond conversations to actions?
2. Have you envisioned carrying out a light experiment to test your idea? If yes, how does that look like? I feel it would be great to test out some assumptions and get some feedback from some DHD in the coming days, and share with the community.

Perhaps you could visualize the idea by trying the user experience map:
Looking forward to seeing the progress

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Hi Isaac,
Thank you very much for your feedback! It is very much appreciated. Here are some thoughts on your comments:

1. As Oxfam in the DR, we have a consistent practice of facilitating intersectoral dialogues to challenge inequalities. In the country, we work bottom-to-top, building on the trust of different actors to transform those dialogues into impact and engagement, by using strategies as MOUs between public authorities/communities/organizations, social audits, strenghtening of existing platforms, lobby and others. We have successfully used these techniques in other topics (transparency, public investment, youth empowerment) in the country and would like to translate that expertise into the context of race-based violence and exclusion of DHD. We believe that if we put them in the hands of the DHD community, using them according to their own needs and visions, the tools could have an even greater impact. In all moments, the actions and dialogues will be driven by the community itself, as we are not protagonists, but rather, facilitators. In any case, I will add a flowchart on how these dialogues will have a more sustainable impact along with the sistematization of our user map (see Point 2).

2. This proposal came from previous encounters with potential beneficiaries held through another project we had last year, and that's how we identified this need/issue. However, we still had foreseen running a focal group with representatives of the DHD community and other sectors that we want to engage in the conversation (media, local authorities...). Using the user map in our context might be a challenge, but we will give it a try anyways, as it could be a new tool for the community! We will have the encounters this week and will share the results with the OpenIDEO community by next week.Again, thank you very much for your imputs, they will definitively be useful to strenghten our idea. Hopefully Dima Boulad might join us in the conversation as well! 

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Here I share with the community our user experience map. It will be articulated with the goals and actions we indicated in our proposal (Point 1, above). This weekend, we had a workshop with 10 people from the Bahoruco area to make it and this is the result! Since we are not able to upload any more attachments, we couldn't go graphic, but we are very excited to share it anyways. There is still some time for feedback, so feel free to comment below. Bests, Elina.-


IDEAL USER: Stephanie, 24, university student. Young Dominican of Haitian descent woman.
DESCRIBE WHAT IS HAPPENING: Stephanie is a Dominican of Haitian descent that lives in Batey 4 in Bahoruco, Dominican Republic. While she is in her immediate community, she feels proud of her Haitian roots as a Dominican, as she feels she represents history. However, when she goes to other communities in the area, or on her visits to Santo Domingo -the capital of the country- she feels rejected and excluded. She notices, for example, that because of her braids or her dark skin, people assume that she is Haitian. She has had episodes of being called names in public buses or at school.
Maria, a friend of Stephanie and resident of another batey in the Bahoruco area, tells her about this workshop that CEDESO is going to have in a couple of weeks. She tells Stephanie that they might find the tools they need to work on more inclusion in their university campus. They look up in CEDESO’s Facebook page the details and register.
Stephanie and her peers learn the tools and abilities to be an advocate for DHD inclusion in the country through leaning-by-doing workshops. In these sessions, she interacts with other colleagues, journalists, reporters and people of interest for the purposes of their goal. Stephanie, alongside all the participants, reflect on the causes for the rejection of DHD and some of the elements necessary to promote a more inclusive national identity. Also, she discusses with the other participants about how the media channels in the country contribute to the replication of discriminatory concepts regarding DHD.
During this phase, Stephanie -as others that took the trainings- meet with allies and potential collaborators of the cause: they connect with other spaces where human rights issues are discussed in the country; young leaders and activists; public authorities and officials; media owners; journalists; and others. They meet to communicate their project and to get feedback from the potential allies. From these meetings, Stephanie and the team fine-tune the strategies they design during the workshops. They are ready to take action.
Together, Stephanie and her peers design many strategies to reshape public discourse in the country, using their experiences as a source. Stephanie becomes one of the spokespersons of the initiative and applies her lobbing and advocacy strategies. She partners with different platforms of independent journalists and influencers to promote the initiative and engage people with the cause. She also works with her own community, Batey 4, and with CEDESO volunteers to identify stories that highlight how DHD live their Dominican-ness. She hosts discussing sessions with colleagues from university, appears in TV and radio shows, and gets in touch with youth leaders to replicate the ideas in other parts of Bahoruco and Santo Domingo. The team starts a campaign with innovative and creative activities. A public debate starts and new bridges are made.
Stephanie knows that changes take time, and in the case of DHD and how they are perceived, a lot more. However, she is happy to see how young peers have embraced their identity as black Dominicans with a Haitian heritage, uplifting their self-esteem and helping them engage better in advocacy movements to uphold DHD rights in the country. She also sees how many media channels have reduced the aggressive and discriminatory tone when broadcasting news regarding Haitians or DHD; and the platform of independent journalists that their movement articulated with is managing to publish stories that will help rethink the national identity, therefore, opening a window for sustainability. She is also happy that the local reporters of her Bahoruco region are improving their abilities to record and report on race-based violence and discrimination, so now the local organizations are able to present the cases to the authorities. CEDESO and other DHD civil society spaces are more articulated and many young and local leaders are allies of the cause, allowing for the sustainability of the actions. Therefore, she wants to continue working in this topic and decides to meet with other colleagues to apply for a new OpenIDEO Challenge.

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