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Mar 11, 2016

Women Empowered at the 20000 Strong Rally

Thousands of women, men and children from every corner of Belize marched and rallied today. It’s a movement called Twenty Thousand Strong, and it’s all about empowering and uplifting women in the Belizean society. The crowd this morning was easily double what came out in 2014 for the first version of twenty-thousand. With participation from the Police, B.D.F., schools and youth organizations, they marched from the Memorial Park to the Marion Jones Complex, accompanied by the music of marching bands and even Garifuna drums. Mike Rudon was number twenty-thousand and one this morning and has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

There may not have been exactly twenty-thousand Belizeans walking along the Marine Parade, but nobody’s counting. Since its first appearance in 2014, the movement has grown tremendously and this morning, Belizeans came out en masse to show their love and support for our women. It’s not about numbers but about solidarity and sisterhood. It’s about bringing together women and those who support them to hear a common message and share a common commitment. And it’s about acknowledging that there are real challenges.

 

Judith Alpuche

Judith Alpuche, C.E.O., Ministry of Human Development

“Women are not represented in the labor force, for instance. We have unemployment rates that are double that of men. If you look at issues of gender-based violence, women are about ninety percent to ninety-five percent of the cases of gender-based violence. In decision-making, political decision-making especially although we are making some strides – we have more females in the House than we had in the last elections and at local levels there are more women being represented but we still have such a long way to go.”

 

Kay Menzies, Businesswoman

“I think the men have been able to be in place, they have kept their places and there is a perception that they are who should be in that place, and it is up to us as women to push ourselves forward and say – hang on, I can do it too, and I can probably not only do it, but do it better. But it comes back to us as well. We also have to believe that we can do that.”

 

So what is it exactly that these women are being uplifted from and empowered against? There are women in every facet and at every level of society – in governance, business, the military – women doctors and lawyers and executives everywhere we look. So who or what is holding back women in Belize? Men? Other women? A culture? One entrepreneur recognized for her success says that for young women the biggest challenge is other women.

 

Crystal Samos

Crystal Samos, Entrepreneur

“We live in an era where women constantly keep bringing other women down. I always encourage other women to stop that. It’s very important to empower each other and really support each other. A lot of times we, females, are very competitive, and that’s the problem. We are always in a competition so that is what happens when we raise our daughters thinking that they have to be the best in everything that they do. Because we see other women instead of a support system, instead of someone to lean on we see them as our competition and as our enemy instead of as our friend.”

 

That’s one train of thought. Another is that some women are perhaps their own worst enemies.

 

John Briceño

John Briceño, P.U.P. Leader

“In many instances women put ceilings as to how high they believe that they can go. Because of that they don’t push as much as they can or should. We know that women have a lot of strength. They have a lot of character. A lot of them are the ones getting more educated in this country and there is so much that they have contributed and can continue to contribute. If women were to remove those barriers from themselves I am sure they can go all the way to the very top. Who know…maybe in the next few elections we can have or should have a woman Prime Minister.”

 

Kay Menzies

Kay Menzies

“We need more women entrepreneurs and we need more women to have confidence in themselves. Those who are at the top of the pyramid also need to help those who are trying to aspire to the top of the pyramid. I think one of the points of today’s rally and the movement behind it is to encourage women that you can do whatever you set your mind to do.”

 

And then…it’s about working to change a culture.

 

Kim Barrow

Kim Barrow, Special Envoy for Women and Children

“Women need to start believing in themselves. It starts with us. It starts with home, and what we allow our boys and girls and children at home to do – in terms of chores, in terms of how we treat each other. It really starts with that, and it’s about us breaking barriers – oh the boys can only clean the yard. No! The boys can wash dishes and they can clean the homes and they can do all of these different things because we’re equal and it’s about teaching them at that early age that we’re equal and about respecting women and respecting themselves and that there’s nothing wrong with them doing that.”

 

Judith Alpuche

“Us discouraging girls – you know girls you have to stick to these traditional types of careers, you can’t be a scientist, you can’t be an engineer, you’re not good at Math you’re a girl…or boys you’re not supposed to be washing up or having a nurturing role – weh happen, you dah sissy? Those are the things that are at the very core of inequality and everything branches from there.”

 

It may only be one day, and one moment when all these women will be together in one place. But the message is getting out there.

 

John Briceño

“A little more than fifty percent of the population is women in Belize, and we need to take at least one day where we can recognize the tremendous contribution that Belizean women continue to make in our society. For too long we have not been giving them the importance. This is one wonderful opportunity where women can come together and share their experiences and their ideas as to what they would want to see in a Belize where women are more empowered.”

 

Patty Arceo

Patty Arceo, Former Minister

“What we are seeking is for more opportunities for women to also be at the forefront of things that are happening in our country. Let us be looking beyond the beauty of the women and look at the brains and what they can also contribute to our community. I am only one but I know around me and behind me there are so many more that can continue contributing not only politically but also socially.”

 

The theme of the day was “20000 Strong – Imagine a Belize Without Women.” Mike Rudon for News Five.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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