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Mar 16, 2018

20,000 Strong Returns to Marion Jones

Twenty-thousand Strong? Not quite – but they descended on Belize City nevertheless with their call for gender parity. This year, the women rallied for change with “Nurturing the Next Generation – hashtag press for progress” theme. Women make up over fifty percent of Belize’s population but are still largely disadvantaged when compared to men. Putting the plight of women at the center of the conversation, even more recently, the sexual attacks and violence meted out on women and young girls bring into sharp focus the need for change. Since 2014, and every two years since then, the Special Envoy for Women and Children, Kim Simplis Barrow and partner agencies host the biggest women’s empowerment rally. Many schools and local organizations were out in full support at today’s event. News Five’s Andrea Polanco tells us more about today’s staging of the third Twenty-thousand Strong Women’s Empowerment Rally:

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The 20,000 Strong Women’s Empowerment Rally kicked off from the Memorial Park with a parade – led by students and marching bands, backed up by representatives of organizations and businesses. It’s the third staging of the rally – and the symbolic orange t-shirts were on full display as they made their way along the Marine Parade and onto the Newtown Barracks and then into the Marion Jones Sporting Complex. It wasn’t quite the twenty thousand and may be quite way off from there – but what they lacked in numbers, they made up for in spirit. Kim Simplis Barrow says today is about the message.

 

Kim Simplis Barrow

Kim Simplis Barrow, Special Envoy for Women & Children

“From the numbers we were getting, it is definitely more than we had the last time. The fortunate thing is that we were able to get if not all the schools, most of the schools to participate this year. So, it will be a much bigger parade. But, you know, it is not about the numbers, it is what we walk away with. Each woman out there will walk away with something and hopefully if we can change the minds and the mindset of our people in some way or the other, then we have accomplished something.”

 

This third staging of the 20,000 Strong Women’s Empowerment Rally brought women together to “press for progress.”

 

Kim Simplis Barrow

“Press for Progress means a lot and it is not just one directional. It means press for progress in all different directions – to end violence, increase equality for women in partnership. It is just so profound – the message is so profound and so timely especially at this time when we are experiencing so much violence in our country. And especially against our children. It is very concerning and so we definitely want to continue pressing for progress. There is so much more that we can do.”

 

Women from all over the country are here to press for progress, including Viannie Montero of the Atlantic International Bank and Minister Tracy Panton.

 

Viannie Montero

Viannie Montero, Marketing Manager, Atlantic International Bank

“We felt it necessary to be out here because our organization is eighty percent women. Women are out there. We are working hard and we are making a difference. So, we felt it was necessary for us to be out here and support.”

 

Tracy Panton

Tracy Panton, Minister of State, Trade & Commerce

“I think it is important not only to advocate for women’s issues but also to celebrate women. We do a lot for our Belizean society and it is important to get a time to reflect, come together and celebrate all we have done and look forward to resolving those issues that still affect us today.”

 

While women led the charge today –men and boys were out to lend their voice to the empowerment gathering. And they are here not just to make up numbers.

 

Pedro Reyes

Pedro Reyes, Principal, Kings College

“The message we got from the organizers was clear – that there is a need for everyone to hear the message from the young people, especially from the schools as well in regards to the violence in regards to women and children, in particular, in the country. I believe we, men, have a big responsibility to share, particularly in schools for both males and females to know that we all contribute to having a peaceful and loving society.  Since we are a small school, we have our counselor who touch base regularly with our students and teachers. We have small class sizes. We have time, space, the environment to touch base with them one on one and encourage them to make a difference in their homes, their communities and in the school.”

 

Kim Simplis Barrow

“We certainly need to get them in the conversation and that is one of the reasons why we included them in the agenda this year. We recognize that we have to move forward together and we can’t leave our men on the sidelines, either. So, there will be a lot more engagement with our men and they will be speaking today as well on all the issues that are affecting them and how they can lead the way to gender parity.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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