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Oct 13, 2017

Girls Run the World, But Belize’s Are More Vulnerable than Ever

Across the globe on Wednesday, International Day of the Girl Child was recognized. In her statement, United Nations Population Fund’s Executive Director, Doctor Natalia Kanem says, “Girls today enjoy better life prospects than previous generations in many ways. Prosperity and nutrition are improving, child marriage and teenage pregnancy are declining, and female educational attainment and participation in the labour force are on the rise.” Since 2011, Belize has been celebrating the day, but it has been a feature in many countries from 1995 following the Beijing Conference. It is part of the women’s empowerment movement, focusing on young girls and overcoming the many challenges they face, even to date. UN Gender Theme Group Member, Ann-Marie Williams, explains.

 

Ann-Marie Williams

Ann-Marie Williams, Member, UN Gender Theme Group

“We find out that in Belize now, the time has come to actually mark the observance because the girl child is in trouble. To be born female is a disadvantage; it doesn’t matter what many people say, but the data shows you that. The awareness though; it brings to bear an opportunity for people in Belize to look at the marks that we have made in terms of the girl child and to keep stock of the gains and to build on the gains that we’ve made. Belize has done well in terms of girl’s education as part of the MDGs, which was a precursor to the SDGs. We have a number of women graduating almost three to one over their male counterparts at university but we notice that a lot of these women are not in fields like IT and engineering. They have been taking part in nontraditional fields; still not many opportunities are opened. In terms of health, you have a number of young people, particularly young girls who cannot access sexual reproductive health services at the age of fifteen or as adolescents on their own. And there is no law that says it cannot happen, but a lot of health care providers; it is something that they actually practice. So we need to look at that. We also need to examine gender based violence. A lot of young girls face sexual violence and the common street harassment that men feel is okay—hi babes, hi sweetie. Girls are not safe and it’s been shown that girls have a right to be safe, they have a right to an education and to live healthy lives.”

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