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Meet Dalys Rodriguez, executive director of FundaciĢ_n Calicanto and delegate of the Global Freedom Exchange, a program hosted by Vital Voices in partnership with Hilton Worldwide. She is also a featured blogger for our participation in the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign that has been used as an organizing strategy by individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women.

At FundaciĢ_n Calicanto we are ending the cycles of poverty and domestic violence by uplifting women and providing them with the tools they need to succeed.

Through our CAPTA program, we work with uneducated, unemployed women who come from broken homes. CAPTA (Training for Employment) is a seven-week employment training course for women with three or more children who are living below the poverty line, and facing profound violence.

CAPTA’s Fundamental Cycle is vital to the course, consisting of five weeks of psychological training to raise the self-esteem and confidence of participants. 74% of the women in the program are victims of domestic violence. 48% of them are physically abused, and 35% have been sexually abused. Women who have been through such turmoil and deeply-rooted levels of violence often have shattered self-esteem and negative perceptions of self that must be carefully treated. Our women receive classes in emotional intelligence, conflict management, self-esteem, leadership, life goals and planning, sexual education, and other subjects crucial to their development. The course ends with technical training for employment in the hotel industry.

The focus that we’ve placed on the psychological needs of the women we work with is what makes this program innovative. Empowering a woman who hasn’t been allowed to dream and ensuring that her empowerment continues after the course ends is what guarantees the program’s success. 

We are not only changing a woman’s life, we are changing the lives of her children and her community.

Working with women who endure so much violence is not easy. Our biggest obstacle is changing their mindsets, which are often rooted in cultural norms that exist throughout their communities. The basic idea of a woman’s inferior role in society is difficult to change, especially when the women themselves believe it.

As male figures in homes begin to feel threatened, women often experience threats and other abuse. It is common for women who go through the course to experience more physical and verbal abuse as their self-esteem and empowerment begin to grow. With proper psychological attention, we can help them escape abusive partners. More than half of the women who go through our course successfully leave violent relationships. And 76% of the women who complete the training are gainfully employed.

Through our CAPTA program, we are changing the lives of women in Panama.  The cost of the program is $1,000 USD per woman and any donation that helps us provide the course is valuable. If you would like to support Panamanian women, you can make a tax-deductible donation at or support us through social media and by spreading the word about CAPTA.

We encourage you to like FundaciĢ_n Calicanto on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. We also provide learning opportunities through volunteer work for students and the opportunity for you to provide technical training to our staff. For more information, please visit our website or email me at