By Iris Amador/Diálogo March 16, 2017 The first Woman’s City center, a Honduran government project to provide social services to women, will begin operations on March 28th. The Honduran Military finished construction and handed over the facilities in early January. Honduran women will receive multiple services at these centers, including training, health care, and legal advice. The service center, located in the Kennedy neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, is the first of five centers whose design and construction are the Military’s responsibility. This innovative model for serving the country’s female population envisions promoting the welfare of women and their families through access to health care, the economy, safety, civil rights, and personal and financial growth opportunities. The centers also will offer services to the children who visit with their mothers. “Woman’s City is a venue for women’s opportunities, where 15 organizations are housed under the same roof to coordinate and collaborate in providing quality services for the comprehensive development of Honduran women,” Attorney Rosa de Lourdes Paz told Diálogo. She is the presidential delegate in charge of the Woman’s City program. The project calls for opening two more centers in 2017; one in Choloma, in Cortés department, and the other in Juticalpa, in Olancho department. For 2018, the plan is to start operations at another two centers; one in San Pedro Sula and another in La Ceiba, on the north coast. Women’s cities “The Armed Forces support this program with design, development, budgeting, and supervision of all of the construction through the engineering department at the Logistics Headquarters of the Armed Forces of Honduras,” Colonel Jorge Alfredo Cerrato, spokesman for the Armed Forces, told Diálogo. “We finished building the first center in seven months and are expecting to finish the four remaining centers on deadline,” Col. Cerrato confirmed. “Everything is ready for us in Choloma. The Military is supervising the construction through the end.” Each Woman’s City is, in effect, like a small city. Every complex contains at least seven buildings, each of which is outfitted to cater to different needs. The buildings are surrounded by gardens, green spaces, and open-air walkways. Nearly $4 million were invested in the first center. The cost of building the rest of the centers will run close to $20 million. Like other women around the world “Even though we represent 52 percent of the Honduran population, women are subjected to many types of discrimination. Women receive lower salaries for the same work, are vulnerable to various kinds of abuse, and don’t have access to financial credit. Many women lose their lives to illnesses tied to their gender that aren’t treated in time,” Paz stated. “We believe that this project will have a positive impact on the lives of many women. We believe that it will have the effect of reducing violence within the family unit and that through the help that the women receive, emigration and school dropout will also be avoided,” Col. Cerrato added, expressing his satisfaction with the Military’s collaboration on this initiative. “This is an initiative to facilitate every woman’s access to her rights. It’s the state stepping up to provide a platform for women to get services in a single place, not at different locations, which is what makes it more difficult to access services,” Paz said. “The only entry requirement is being a woman.” Service modules Woman’s City will provide services through six service modules. The first is to help women achieve financial self-sufficiency. Women are the main engine of the informal economy, but they cannot avail themselves of loans. Through Woman’s City, they will have access to what the government calls “solidarity credits,” so that they can finance their own small businesses. There is also a module focused on treatment and prevention of domestic violence that provides women with access to legal aid and emergency assistance. The third module is focused on women’s sexual and reproductive health. According to Dr. Jorge Cerrato, a gynecologist at the Military Hospital in Tegucigalpa, cervical cancer is the leading cause of death for Honduran woman, closely followed by breast cancer. In addition, Honduras is the second leading country in Latin America in numbers of teenage pregnancies, he said. Thus, Woman’s City seeks to nurture safe and healthy sexual practices among women, and to reduce the rates of disease through education aimed at prevention and early detection. The center also provides preconception, prenatal, and postnatal care for women. A fourth module is focused on community education through educational strategies and community involvement in order to stamp out cultural norms that allow gender inequality. The instruction will be varied, and talks, workshops, and seminars will be held on issues ranging from decision-making to sex education. As for the remaining modules, one is focused on serving young children, and the final one, on serving adolescents. Through Woman’s City, the government aims to reduce the percentage of women aged 15 and older without employment income, lower the maternal death rate, and reduce the infant mortality rate for children under five. The initial projections are to serve 8,000 new beneficiaries per year. “It is my conviction that when a woman takes the initiative to rise up and move forward, she will never fall back again,” Paz concluded.